🏆2nd Blogging Award🏆Announced!

I am proud to share with the blogging community that the Connecticut Press Club (CPC) has announced that my blog post, In the Heights of Father’s Day, has won FIRST place for best blog post of 2021. The entry now moves on to compete at the affiliate level of the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW).

If you recall, the press club awarded, Am I in the Right Room? a second prize in the blogging category for CPC’s 2020 contest.

As a side note, one of my travel stories also won an honorable mention in the 2021 travel writing category.

The awards will be presented in June, and I will keep you updated.

I am humbled and, at the same time, honored to be recognized. It has been a bittersweet, 40-something year writing journey. When my children were growing up, and I spent every weekend and holiday “working” on a project, I never doubted for one minute that my earnest efforts would pay off and, in the future, I would have ample family quality time. One day, I thought, I would be able financially to “retire” or, at least, have weekends off. Of course, living in my writer’s fantasy, my dreams were simply illusions, pipedreams dribbled down on paper. I am left with thinking about the years of Sunday movies at the theater that I did not have the opportunity to watch with my young and growing family.

When it comes to writing this blog, sometimes I fear that I shouldn’t be transparent and, instead, keep my vulnerabilities to myself. At this point in my life, though, I work hard at steering clear of judging others and keeping my opinions about others to myself and, as such, the only opinion about moi that matters is my own. This mindset has proven to be of great therapeutic value to me and allows me to express myself during the times I need to. In turn, I am grateful to you, my blogging community, for providing me with a judgment-free zone that is my safe sanctuary and certainly my faith muscle and a “winner’s circle” all around.

Faith Muscle

Community Strong

This week’s post is dedicated to all those who have lost loved ones and pets, homes, businesses and other possessions after powerful tornadoes left paths of destruction in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.”

Through the media, I have witnessed community resilience, response and recovery efforts during the dire situation this past weekend. For instance, one of the tornados ripped through and destroyed the Mayfield (KY) First United Methodist Church property. The pastor, Reverend Joey Reed and his wife, took shelter in the church basement and survived the catastrophic event.

During a TV broadcast interview, his gratitude for the safety of his wife and children prevailed. He said that things are replaceable; people are not.

In fact, the reverend further explained that the topic of “joy” was the theme he had planned for last Sunday’s sermon. Fortunately, he was still able to present the sermon during a service at another local church that the tornado bypassed. Interestingly, the only bulletin from Reverend Reed’s church that survived the calamity includes a synopsis of his sermon.

The sermon defines joy as something that is internal and thereby it is a permanent fixture for as long as we live. Happiness, on the other hand, is external and is fleeting.

“Joy is often mistaken for happiness, but happiness can change by a turn of events. Joy is something that abides. That’s what we’re holding onto,” Reverend Reed said.

In the same spirit of joy, although the parish has lost the sanctuary, he also stated, “That building was the repository of our memories. We have to remember that those memories still belong to us. They cannot be taken from us even by something as devastating as this tornado.”

I only hope that Clayton Cope’s parents, whose son would have turned 30 at the end of December, and all the other parents who lost young adult children at the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and children of all ages throughout the six effected states will manage to cherish their “repository of memories” as they now undertake the most unbearable journeys imaginable.

To these bereaved parents and to all the other survivors who are swallowed by grief in so many forms from this tragedy, I stand with you. I salute your bravery as you endure your faith walk. Always remember, the power of faith lies in the acceptance of our powerlessness.

Faith Muscle

Powerlessness

Out of the Darkness Campus Walks for Suicide Awareness, sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi.

This past Friday, my partner’s eldest daughter called to extend her condolences to me and my daughter for Marshall’s death. Of course, she previously had offered her condolences to us over two years ago when our family tragedy occurred. In fact, she was here every step of the way. When I mean “here,” Laura and her husband were “here” in our kitchen. They cooked, cleaned, enabling me to tend to other matters. I will be indebted to them forever.

Anyway, it took another tragedy for her to obtain a closer, bird’s eye perspective of our painful journey and the extent of what it means to be powerless.

During the telephone call, Laura explained that her dearest friend’s 14-year-old son died by suicide on December 1st. He was star athlete, well-liked at his high school and did not have any substance abuse issues or outward signs of mental health challenges or depression.

“One day you see them and then you don’t.”

I remember these words uttered by a young man and how he elucidated in a somber manner the death of his high school football teammate who had died by suicide. I met him in Norwalk, Connecticut in March 2020 while participating in one of the Out of the Darkness Campus Walks for Suicide Awareness, sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi.

The man I met at the walk explained that he last saw his teammate cheerfully perched on the high school’s bleachers.

“One day you see them and then you don’t.”

As I spoke to Laura over the phone, I steered clear of the background details. Right now, though, as I write this blog post, the young man is brain-dead and his mom has spent every waking hour by his side at the hospital, squeezing the time-limited moments like membranes of an orange in a drought-riddled, barren land. Although I’ve never met them, mom and son have been ironed into my thoughts like starch since I heard the news.

For over 37 years, I have followed a program that teaches me that I am powerless over people, places, things and most situations. This means, although I was able to help many people, I could not help my own son at the end. (I was powerless over the situation — despite my ego reprimanding me repeatedly, shouting, “You could have saved him.”)

So, distraught after hearing Laura’s news, I revealed the situation to a close friend without breaking the 14-year-old’s anonymity. She said, “Well, you have walked in his mom’s shoes. You know how it feels.”

Right then and there, I responded, “No!” (Please note the exclamation point!)

I walk only in my shoes. I can’t fit my big clunkers and a partial bunion into anyone’s shoes no matter how I try. I might fall into the International Shoe Size Chart, but the whorls and ridges are unique in toe prints. Like hand prints, no two footprints are identical and neither are heartbreak, grief and pain. Everyone processes human emotions and feelings differently.

Mattie Jackson Selecman is point on in her new book, Lemons on Friday: Trusting God Through My Greatest Heartbreak, “Everyone’s grief is different. What is true for most grievers: the illusion of control over our lives — the tight, self-preserving grip we thought we held on our person and our plans — is now gone. What we thought was secure has been snatched away.”

The quote helps to elucidate what I believe I have in common with the grieving mom in the ICU. We realize what it means to be powerless — really, badass, fall-down-on-the-ground, kicking and screaming, dust-particles-flying everywhere powerless. In other words, I have no control over people, places, things and most situations. (I only have power over my own behavior.) Dictionary.com defines powerlessness as without ability, influence, or power.

The mom grieving over her brain-dead son and I undeniably understand what it is to be helpless in the face of a situation that is totally unjust, unfair and worse than cruel. There is nothing we can change about what has been thrust upon us. There are no miracles in our human eyes.

“Surrender to win!”

That is a familiar saying among my peers. When all else fails, life support is removed and there is no hope for recovery, we surrender to what is, not what was or could be.

In 2015, Writer Maria Popova wrote an excellent book review for H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. In her review, she poignantly captures the essence of surrender: “And yet somehow, Macdonald unboxes herself as she trains Mabel into control and Mabel trains her into the grace of surrender, of resting into life exactly as it is rather than striving for some continually unsatisfying and anguishing version of how it ought to be. “

My friend Brian A. used to say it best: “Accept everything all the time.”

“It is what it is,” my daughter constantly reminds me.

This also means, we do not seek answers, play the blame game or find cowardly tactics to bolster a lost cause that, in the end, causes us to seep further into despair, anguish and a meritless rabbit hole of a self-made hell. Instead, we stare at the raw reality in terror and plunge deeper into our souls and pan desperately for the gold that is our inner strength.

Yes, it is what it is and so it is.

“One day you see them and then you don’t.”

My own personal tragedy aside, I know almost everyone has experienced some sort of loss and pain. Regardless of the circumstances, I am one of the fortunate ones. I was able to uncover a priceless reserve of peace that I first started panning for — about the same time I began to comprehend the word powerless — over 37 years ago. What this essentially means is that I can extend a listening ear and a safe place of my heart to a fellow sufferer, an empowering space amid the turmoil of the world to which we retreat, surrender our egos, rest into life, press through the hard and hold tight to faith, hope and each other.

Faith Muscle

One more day

An appreciated note from one of my dearest friends that she dropped off recently with a bouquet of flowers. I keep it under plexiglass on my nightstand as an important reminder: ONE MORE DAY

One more day: I muster up blind faith and a guileless swagger. I am determined that my heartbreak won’t leak through the metal armor. The mission is to not allow a sobbing storm to leak through anyone’s rooftop and ruin his or her day, which, of course, doesn’t always work. I appreciate the super slim portion of the population that can actually affirm grief and heartbreak and unpredictability and let it be. I also appreciate the people who can look at life squarely without washing over any of it.

One more day: The morning’s first vitamin goes down easily as I swallow a small pint of water from a recycled jelly jar. The ritual started about 10 years ago when each and every day outran me, waking up in the morning with a duplicate to-do list in my hand from the day before. In those days, I was obsessed about crow’s feet around my eyes. My face was turning into a vase cracking from frequent use, decade after decade. Now, I ignore the lines, wrinkles and my face breaking as the days sit on me like topsoil.

A few weeks ago, I “kissed a ceiling fan” clueless to the oscillating fan since I was cleaning and intent on getting rid of dust bunnies. That night in the hospital’s emergency room, I ended up with nine stitches on my upper eyelid. Later, over the next course of days, I laid in bed at home alone weeping privately.

Afterwards, my therapist Louis got it right when he said, “The trauma exasperated the trauma.”

In fact, the painful accident felt like a contradiction. I finally looked outside the way I felt inside, and it felt like a relief. I didn’t have to hide anymore. It takes up so much energy to hide behind a smiley emoji.

How are you? People ask me in passing.

Fine.

What would happen if I revealed the raw truth instead of participating in small talk? “Most days, I really don’t want to go on.”

Fine. I’m absolutely fine.

Today is going to be a great day!

In 1984, I began my journey as a mind warrior picking positive thoughts and affirmations along the way. By the time I became a mom, I was determined to raise little mind warriors who grew up into big mind warriors. I can remember my son’s seven-year-old face reflected in my bedroom’s mirror, reciting affirmations that I taught him: I am smart. I deserve to be happy. No matter how hard it is, I can do it.

When times were tough, I convinced my ex-husband, We can do it. He, on the other hand, affirmed, We’ll make it. Year after year, times became tougher. We can do it.

In our end years before I filed for a divorce, I reminded him, We can do it.

It’s a lie. We are failing. I hate my job. I hate the rat race. I hate this town. I hate this state. We are losing the house. We are behind the eight ball. Affirming something that isn’t true is a lie.

I heard what my ex-husband said, but I did not or could not make myself believe it. It was going to be okay. Of course, it wasn’t okay. Our marriage not only tanked, but life became like sitting on the edge of a hardwood chair with no flooring underneath. I felt like most of my affirmations and positive thoughts ended up as fulfilling as sweat on the heal of the hand.

As my son’s young world took shape into adulthood, instead of reciting affirmations, he sarcastically started to announce each day with, “Another day in paradise.”

I shuttered when I heard his description, but I, too, denied that I intuitively knew it was a dark foreshadowing of the future.

In the past, the autumn days represented red, gold and tangerine colors, and new to-do lists that involved purging closets. Now, I manage the autumn in slow motion, holding on stubbornly to the dead summer. After all, the fall marks the autumn of my son’s life. He did not make it to the winter solstice and the return of more sunlight.

We’ll make it. Sometimes my ex-husband’s voice bellows in all its youth and springtime vigor in my mind, and for a fleeting second, I see the four of us all young again, wearing forever smiles. And, I recall my long-ago affirmations: I am abundant; God cannot give me a desire without it already being mine.

Then my three fingers pinpoint my heartbreak in the middle of my chest, safely tucked away beneath the metal of armor.

Next weekend, we have a party we are invited to, and I am buffing my armor, getting ready. One of the guys who is attending and whom I ran into recently exclaimed, “Get your dancing shoes on.”

I am amazed at his unawareness. How clueless he is to assume that I live life in the same manner I used to when I had free rein of closets overstuffed with dancing shoes. Some might call my place in life prolonged grief, conveniently paint over it and make it pretty so it’s easily friended by millions of strangers. Others erase grief as they once erased my son because of his taciturn manner. Others direct me to move on and lament over how I am stuck in the past. Then there are a select few who know that grief is something you can’t lift, like age, and it isn’t something to fill and fix like Botox on crow’s feet.

It’s there always, like the inner peace I was gifted with nearly 37 years ago. Now, I’m learning how to shuffle everything within me to make space for the grief. For me, the process is like inching around in a new pair of stiff shoes.

One more day: I alone can do it without anyone’s bird’s eye view of my world, because I learned in these nearly two years that bird’s eye views are dangerously limited.

One more day: It’s a different day, yet it kicks in with the same vitamin and joint supplement regime that stays with me along with drinking it all down in a repurposed glass that I savor, because I am acutely aware of how repurposing is an end-of-life strategy that doesn’t always hold water and no positive thought or affirmation will ever make it any different.

Faith Muscle

Fear Mongrels

Photo by Mile Ribeiro on Pexels.com

Since childhood, the bullies in my garden of life are as plentiful as three-leaf clovers. Their job is to intimidate and control. Sling insults, impede success and flatten everyone who appears on their radar.

After a bully encounter with the one of the two bullies, who are like Velcro in my life in spite of my grief journey, I am left with an indifferent acceptance fueling a slow burn in the pit of my chest. Afterwards, I quell my uncomfortable feelings by sprinkling a pollyannish delish sweetener on my angst. Many times, however, the discomfort awakens me at 3 p.m. like a pulled muscle.  

My denial doesn’t trick me any longer into believing that the bullies are acceptable. In reality, bullying behavior under the best of circumstances has the same effect of a concoction of artificial chemicals in the body.

Now, in the final chapter of my life, I am removing toxins, starting a healthy diet and getting fitted for big girl panties. After all, how long can one survive on toxicity? Sometimes, though, finding voice, drawing the line and saying, “No More!” seems like an impossible conquest.

Uncharitable, unkind bullies seem “blessed” in my circle of family and friends. Their big ego magnets attract big things. One bully, for example, who is now an adult, but used to mercilessly insult my son in middle school, has not only survived, but, apparently thrived, having recently obtained a supervisory position. The job involves children, and I wonder if he has outgrown his bully behavior. I wonder what will he pass on?

Bullies come in all ages and from all backgrounds. Bullies rein with a rod of thunder that elicits fear. Their mission is to control the moves on life’s chessboard.

My mission is to stop perpetuating the cycle. If fear and faith are segregated roommates then I am at that point where I am friending faith. This does not mean fear magically disappears. This means, I have to look it in the eye and die … but not REALLY die, because that’s fear talking, lying and stripping me of my birthright dignity. The only path to victory is having the wherewithal to weld a faith shield. I can do that, because I, too, am blessed with courage to climb higher, above fear’s bondage and escape into freedom outside the prison of running scared.

Faith Muscle

Turtle Tale

Ngoc Son Temple (Turtle Tower) , Image by Nguyen Do from Pixabay
Golden Turtle God Courtesy of Casablanca1911 at Vietnamese Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Turtle Tale

Indonesian writer, Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s short story, So What’s Your Name, Sandra? * continues to impact my life.

As a reminder in the last two posts, I wrote, “My identification on so many levels with the main character, Mama Sandra, who is Indonesian, supersedes our cultural differences. We are moms who have lost our sons to suicide while we still live and defy the natural order.”

The author’s portrayal of the raw, radical truths associated with losing a child forces me to revisit the sinkhole in my heart where the extensive pain awakes and prompts the delusional demon in the brain to reach for a lethal injection.   

Simultaneously, the theme of how a bereaved mother keeps her stride while forced to the very edge of grief’s plank is prevalent in Norman’s work. He illustrates sorrow’s underside through the main character’s encounter with a sacred giant turtle, the Hoàn Kiếm turtle or, the Golden Turtle God, on display at Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi, Vietnam. The landmark stands on a small islet inside Hoan Kiem Lake downtown.

Norman writes, ending his beautiful masterpiece:

Then Mama Sandra was there in that room, face to face again with the giant turtle corpse behind glass. She circled the case a few times, eyes fixed on the gigantic reptile. Wikipedia had told her that the Golden Turtle God had lent a sword to Vietnam’s king at the time. The sword had been used to liberate them from China. According to the legend, the king had returned the sword to the god. Now it lay tucked away in the depths of the lake.

“Can’t see it, but it’s there,” she’d mumbled a few days ago when the tale had sprung to mind, as she stood in the toilet at Kuala Lumpur airport gazing into the mirror.

Now, in the temple, Mama Sandra began crying again. Bewildered, the people around her began to stare. She turned to find the Tiger Beer woman standing beside her, hand in hand with her little boy. The child was dressed in a blue jacket. His cheeks were smudged with chocolate.

“This is my son,” Mama Sandra told the woman in English, pointing to the turtle in the glass case, tears streaming down her face. “This is my son.” She felt the woman would understand somehow. “This is my son, you know.”

Standing next to a mother holding her alive child’s hand, Motherless Mama Sandra takes on the mummified turtle’s identity as her child. Her son. The legend behind the turtle and lake represent a hidden sword in the lake that possessed magical powers to change the country’s fate. Faith, after all, is believing in things you can’t see. Mama Sandra latches onto the turtle legend as a form of faith, helping her brave the fact that she lives defying the natural order.

Norman captures accurately the lynchpin of grief between me and Mama Sandra and, likely, others in these unnatural positions in life. One blog writer, a young widow and mother, that I tremendously admire, once wrote about her deceased husband, “he is nowhere and everywhere.”

I also believe the description of the sacred turtle symbolizes her son–and my son–as well, once a “symbol of independence and longevity.”

Faith journey | grief journey escorts us to places where our sons are EVERYWHERE. Sometimes in the least expected places.  One recent example that happened to me last week occurred not in a sacred temple in front of a sacred turtle in Asia, but in Aisle #15 at the lighting department in Home Depot.

The lyrics from a Moody Blues song I hadn’t heard since before the tragedy wafted between me and the friendly store clerk who examined each bulb and socket on the hunt for a halogen flood light to replace the dead one I showed her in my hand.

 I know you’re out there somewhere

Somewhere, somewhere

I know you’re out there somewhere

Somewhere you can hear my voice

I know I’ll find you somehow

Somehow, somehow

I know I’ll find you somehow

And somehow I’ll return again to you

Inhaling the Home Depot air filled with sawdust, metal and an underlining industrial odor, I had to do everything in my power not to become tearful like Mama Sandra. Before me, my imagination superimposed my son’s face on every halogen flood light bulb that the clerk removed from the package to show me.

I know I’ll find you somehow

And somehow I’ll return again to you

I tried to consciously block out the music. Grateful for my face mask, I pulled it as high as I could as I do quite frequently in public on the occasions when I attempt to cover unrestrained tears.

The store clerk handed me one last flood light unaware, smiling. Whether it matched the dead bulb in my hand or not, I could not bare my faithless eyes to peer too close.

Only in my mind I heard Mama Sandra’s proclamation. “This is my son, you know.”

I inhaled and exhaled through my nose, grabbed the bulb, my son. Wiped the final streaming tear.

“I’ll order one on Amazon. Thank you.”

The clueless clerk smiled another smile. I made a beeline for the front entrance through the crowd, passed the key aisle. In my mind’s eye, I visualized a six-foot turtle god hovering over the key copy kiosk. The turtle god captivated me like a prism of green colors. I found no reason not to put faith in the turtle god. I had a sudden impulse to jump onto the key copy kiosk. Point to the invisible turtle god. Shout, announce to the Home Depot crowd. “This is my son, you know. When he was 18, he made keys at a privately owned hardware store in the neighboring town. He was my son, you know, the one the kindergarten teacher shamed so much because of his lack of fine motor skills that I had to transfer him to another class. At 18, the keys he copied fit every lock that he made them for.”

Instead of words, tears streamed again. Advertisements instead of music echoed through the towering ceiling, soiled with sawdust and alive with wild finches that had escaped the outdoors.

The turtle god vanished.

My son now is everywhere, and he is nowhere. It’s a double edged sword that penetrates things seen and unseen like the dust dancing in the Home depot aisles closest to the windows, visible at sunrise and invisible at sunset.

*Read Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s entire short story, So What Your Name, Sandra?

Faith Muscle

Seat at the Table

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

Last Thanksgiving, my childhood friend Anna, along with her family, opened up their doors to welcome us into their home. We enjoyed a dinner that married savory turkey for the carnivorous diners and tofu turkey for my vegetarian daughter. Complementary gastronomic delights helped create an unforgettable experience.

A somber underbelly lined the free-flowing conversation around the dinner table where, nine days prior, a seat was reserved for my son. What turned out to be our worst nightmare come to life, he never boarded the plane to return home.

One appreciated diversion, though, was my daughter’s friend Raj, originally from India, who savored his first American Thanksgiving dinner. My son, who had a profound interest in geography as well as different cultures, would have taken a keen interest in Raj’s background and, surely, liked his quick wit.

Recently, I viewed a painting “Seat at the Table” on display in a corporation. It pictures a part of a table and three prominent chairs. A part of another chair indicates a continuum. There is nothing significant about the artwork except its message. “Seat at the Table” symbolizes “breaking bread” among family, friends, associates and business colleagues. It is meant to portray inclusivity at the home and office where there is “always a seat at the table” for everyone regardless of a person’s “political affiliation, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, beauty, occupation, education, criminality, sport team affiliation or other personal characteristics.”

The message ends, “giving all an opportunity to have a seat at the table is vital for existence.”

Unfortunately, I think eventually we all have to face societal dinner tables where seats are limited and few; sometimes non-existent. I know, personally, as a first-generation American, more times than not, growing up, seats were not offered. Fortunately, in my mid-twenties that dilemma turned around completely, and I secured many seats at many tables.

In my son’s case, more times than not, seats never turned up for him at anyone’s dinner table (with the exception of his home where a seat waited 24/7, 365 days a year!). However, when you have mental illness, sometimes it’s difficult to gauge seat availability, never mind navigate to the appropriate room. Obviously, in the end he saw no seat anywhere in his hopeless eyes and faith took a sabbatical.

Paradoxically, this year, my daughter said to me on my son’s one-year death anniversary, “The universe takes care of us.”

Does the universe take care of us because we possess faith? Does the universe take care of us, because we are not imprisoned by mental illness and, thereby, capable of accepting its generosity? Who knows. What I do know is that from the moment Anna offered us seats at her Thanksgiving table, I and my daughter and other grievers took comfort at many other tables throughout this past heartbreaking year. Admittedly, the raw reality was that a few tables were seat-less. For instance, my children’s aunt whom we reached out to, but did not extend a hand to my daughter and me as we sank in the quicksand of vulnerability and sorrow. Sarcastically, I can say now, past the hurt, Auntie probably finds her seat in the pew every Sunday and plays the part of Good Samaritan!

I think a prerequisite for faith is trust. Over and over I’ve been burnt in different ways for trusting, but continue to risk. Throughout my adulthood, I always prided myself at setting a dinner table to include everyone. Compassion aside, I simply like people and find nearly everyone fascinating — with the exception of people like Auntie.

The return to regular blogging was also a big risk for me. I trusted enough to write my heart out to strangers. Thus far, I must say, I’ve found a safety net among my fellow bloggers.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to thank every single one of you. You’ve played a big part in this faith journey where more times than not my faith odometer is on zero. I have gotten to know many of you this past year reading intimate, informative, refreshing and enlightening posts, reading poems and marveling at photos and artwork.

In addition, your words of encouragement and connections have helped to string me along on this faith journey.

Just today, thinking no one read last week’s post, I received a heartfelt comment from Shira:

Thank you for sharing that faith that helped you to live, even if you didn’t mean to. Thank you for being here with us now.

Sending Safe Air Hugs, if you’d like them,
Shira

In turn, please realize, there is always an empty seat at my table. After all, Thanksgiving, as I used to say to my children, should be celebrated every day, not only one day a year.

Now, with the holiday upon us, I wish you a Thanksgiving overflowing with peace, love, laughter and faith that if a seat at one’s dinner table isn’t available, another one will open up somewhere else.

Faith Muscle

Champagne Tea

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Image by Bububácsi from Pixabay

I’ve reached the idea that my 26-year-old son won’t be returning after ordering a glass of champagne tea. Marking nearly 7 months since my son took his own life, the dream I had last night was the wet mortar that cemented the permanence of his out-of-order death inside my brain cells.

It was a bizarre dream and I’ll spare readers the unnecessary details. The gist of it is, my 25-year-old daughter and I waited over an hour at a fast food joint for my son’s return after he went to pick up his champagne tea. I grew angrier with each passing moment. It was the kind of anger that I would occasionally feel toward him in real life, and my response was typical. My ego was ready to plow into him, but my soul beat down my zealous ego and re-sized and minimized it down one hundred percent.

Gentle words it spoke: “Don’t blow your top. There’s a good explanation. He’s sensitive as it is, and you don’t want to hurt him needlessly.”

Powerless, my daughter and I stood frozen. Finally, my daughter gently whispered, “He’s not coming back.”

Only then did my brain unleash the absolute truth, a reminder of what had transpired nearly seven months ago after he had recently relocated to Auburn, Kentucky.

This is what I came to realize in my dream. This is what I know in my life. He won’t be back in an hour. He won’t be back tomorrow. The summer will pass without him. My first summer without him.

Earlier in the week, I pulled out a t-shirt inscribed with “Kentucky.” I quickly stuffed it back out of sight. Not so much because I had bought it with him while I was in Kentucky in 2018, but because of the fact that the last time I wore it was last summer when he was alive. The shirt magnifies the void. It’s like waking up to find you’re missing a foot, but more painful, because you have to hobble your way through life with the rest of your body out of balance. NOTE: You never “get over it”—not even for one single day, hour or minute.

That’s what out-of-order death does. It kicks you mercilessly out of the saddle of life as dust particles sting your eyes like bees. The only vision left is all the other riders in front of you galloping effortlessly forward in their high polished saddles.

Out-of-order death makes you think thoughts that would come to you if you accidentally banged your head on the car’s dashboard. The dang kid left to get his champagne tea and won’t be back. He stood us up.

In life, my son was a hell of a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out, and so it is in death. Now, I have to take his dark immovable brick of fate and cement the joints firm and unbroken into my brain. Acceptance is not an easy task when you are broken to smithereens, and faith seems far away and faded along with last year’s sunburn.

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Faith Muscle