Celebrating Life and Grieving Loss

I know the tone of our blog has taken a downward turn as of late. Unfortunately, in spite of great joy in most aspects of our life, we have had more than one instance of bad news. My last post about our dear friends moving was sad to write. But even sadder still was the news of the passing of my sister Brittany at the age of 29. This is our family blog, so we document the thoughts, experiences and happenings of our family. Even though I debated much about adding anything to the blog about her death, it is one of the most affecting events in my life and can’t be excluded. I’m not ready to write much detail about the actual passing, and perhaps I never will be. But I do want to include the eulogy which I shared in Akron at her memorial service in front of at least 100 friends and family members who have known us since our earliest days. I also want to share a letter which she wrote me to accompany my birthday present two years ago, but that will be saved for another post. Below you will find what I wrote for her memorial service:

My Dad gave the eulogy for Brittany at the service we had in Austin. There were over 300 people at there and I hugged each of them, which was hard at first but got easier as the hugging went on. My dad wrote out every word which I don’t normally do when I speak in front of people, but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say to a room of people so I’m going write the whole thing out. I’m going to begin with the poem he read on Thursday. It’s not a poem I would have picked, but when he read it in that room it just made sense. Here it is: Continue reading

Teaching Dignity

Our family honors and respects life. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what that means when I look at the world around me and see the violence and harm people commit daily. I struggle to learn how to disagree with someone while still upholding their dignity. I forget how to discipline my kids without relying on subtle shame. I don’t always know how to eat ethically. I don’t always know how to spend my money without supporting unsafe work conditions. And sometimes I just want to stop thinking about the inherent outcomes of the millions of decisions I make daily. I count on grace for the things I have done and the things I have left undone, but I don’t think that excuses me from making deliberate choices to honor the dignity of life in this world.

Our 7 year old is reaching the stage of childhood where justice is very apparent, and injustice is unacceptable. The weight of every living thing is heavy on her heart. At our county fair she took a pony ride which she looked forward to all day. She struggled to be patient, waiting for her turn. And when it finally came she got on the little pony and started riding around and around. Surprisingly, she struggled to hold back her tears the whole time. Afterwards her Aunt asked her if it was fun and she said, “It was kinda fun for me, but I don’t think it was any fun for the ponies. I don’t think they do anything but walk in a circle all day.”

Here is a very dignified grave site for "Delicate" the Painted Lady butterfly

Here is a very dignified grave site for “Delicate” the Painted Lady butterfly

She is also raising some Painted Lady butterflies in her bedroom. Three of the caterpillars didn’t survive their life cycles, and one of the butterflies never fully expanded her wings. As an adult, I know that this is the reason why insects reproduce in such large numbers. Their delicate lives require the strength-in-numbers strategy of carrying on the gene-pool. Ants will cannibalize their dead so that they can reuse the nutrients for the survival of the colony. There are no individual ant’s right, or respect for the individual butterfly in the animal kingdom. But she doesn’t know that yet. She is grieving the loss of each one, and feeling terribly guilty that their short lives are happening in a mesh cage in her room, not the big green world of flowers.

People are animals. But they’re more than animals. The world is a ball of resources. But it is more than just resources. Having respect for the dignity of a butterfly is a small act, but it is one that I hope will translate into having respect for the dignity of all life. We won’t always know how to respond to that dignity, but at least we will acknowledge that it exists.

Sadness in Conn

I don’t have much to say. I will say that I am one of the few people who feels as much sadness for the shooter as I do for the children and their families. There is a big crack in our social support system and we need to fix it, not patch it or ignore it.

I have told my own girls that I love them about 3,000 times this weekend. I will give love to them and fill them up, no matter what.

Love is the answer 99% of the time, but when it doesn’t work, what do we do then?