my hero

a month or so ago, i got word that eric olsen was leaving his position…as the camp pastor/director at luther heights bible camp…after 30 years!!!

in honor of his work and service, i would like to re-post this dedication to him…

Godspeed, eric!

outside of my father, there are a handful of men that have been and continue to be (in some cases) mentors to me…i consider it an honor and a privilege to have known these men…because they are…

men who have made me a better man…

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another…

one of “my guys” is affectionately known as “big e”…his real name is rev. eric olsen…and he runs luther heights bible camp in the sawtooth wilderness (in central idaho)…he’s been the camp pastor/director there for more than 25 years…i was fortunate enough to have worked closely with eric over the span of 6 summers…a short, but highly potent and influential time in my maturity…

the term “big e” is fitting because he is a big guy…nature made him that way…he’s the kind of guy who can crush boulders with his bare hands and pull fully grown pine trees out of the ground without breaking a sweat…

ever hear of paul bunyan? this guy trained paul bunyan, folks…

no, but seriously…

you won’t see him on the front cover of a magazine or hear about him on twitter…but he’s the kinda guy you should see and hear about there …because he’s a good man, a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others…and when you’re around him this is unmistakably clear…

you won’t know what he’s about by what he says, he speaks sparingly after all…

you’ll know it by what he does…

by his faith…he lives it out every day…

by the way he treats people…the kindness and love he shares with his family, the staff, the campers, the supporting congregations and individuals from those churches…

by the way he works…whether balancing the books, repairing a leaky roof, rebuilding a trail, building a new cabin, recruiting and guiding staff members, raising money for the camp, navigating relationships with the forest service, or digging out the composting toilet…(yes, he’s the big boss…but, he doesn’t leave the gritty, grunt work to someone else…he doesn’t shy away from the dirty jobs…he shows up–every single day)…

working alongside big e is a lesson unto itself…if you can keep up, you can learn a lot…

so, thank you, eric…for everything…you made a difference in my life…you gave me trust, responsibility, and most of all–grace (and there was more than one time when i needed that;)…for a ‘gentle giant’…you were a powerful presence in my life and in the lives of many other people…and i know i’m better for knowing you…

cheers! peace. dett.

we go through

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

-U2

how did the year go???

that is probably the question i get asked most in june…by friends and family…who want to know how the past year of teaching went–and how, exactly, it measured up to past school years…

in those moments, there are usually other people around, and it’s summer, and the sun is shining, and it’s over…so, usually i don’t mind talking about it–but at that moment, i didn’t want to talk about it at all…at least not in regards to the 2016-2017 school year, anyways…

because even though it was 80+ degrees out and i was standing next to the community pool (watching my kids play without a care in the world) on a bright and sunny summer day…when a friend asked me that question…i could feel the clouds coming, i could feel the temperature dropping…

i could see the shadow again…

here’s what happened last school year…

from november to january (within 8 weeks), at my work, shit went down: multiple types of hate-motivated harassment (primarily along racial and religious lines) between students occurred, serious online bullying and harassment took place, drug abuse was rampant, one student was raped by another student, one of our principals was charged with child porn (fired and charged), and one of our teachers was shot and killed by the police.

many of these things, and more, kicked off right after the election…

then, there was a little lull, a little bit of quiet…before the next wave hit…

in the spring, four of my own students were on short-term placements at mental health facilities…for wanting to take their own lives…young people, teenagers–for whom life had become just too much…thankfully, none of the students were ever successful in their attempts…in one case, i got word from a school social worker that my student was going to be gone for several days while at a placement after attempting suicide…when he returned, i got the chance to tell him, “i’m glad you’re back.  you know, there are a lot of people around here who are, too–there are a lot of people around here who care about you.  i do, too.”  even though i meant it, and even though it was the right thing to say, i couldn’t help but feeling like my words were feeble and lame and weak.

it’s safe to say that, by june, i was sick and tired of seeing people being hurt.  it’s also safe to say, that i’ve never seen a school year like the last one…never.  and that’s saying something, given that i’ve seen some things in my time.  the sheer level of emotion–especially, fear, anger, and sadness–was unimaginable…these emotions were laid bare, raw and exposed…and it took it’s toll on all of us.  to say that i was in over my head this past year, would be an understatement–i don’t think i’ve had a year where i’ve felt more at a loss or powerless to do anything helpful in response to what i was seeing than i did this last year…the pain, the suffering, the brokenness–were overwhelming…never mind, trying to teach a class and go through lessons when all this shit was going down–in fact, i remember going to administration several times during this onslaught for help because i was drowning (and because, i’m not a social worker or counselor) …but, the party line was “keep doing what you’re doing”, “keep teaching” — their posture seemed ridiculous and impossible, if not laughable (were the situation not so serious)…especially since, the shock waves from the above incidents seemed to be knocking everyone down (again and again)–especially the kids…

to be fair, none of us saw this year coming…and nobody was prepared for it…

well, the school year ended and the summer began…personally, i was grateful for the reprieve and the rest…and now, it’s august and there’s a new year on the horizon…and i can say, wholeheartedly and humbly…that i am very, very thankful to the friends and family who helped me come out of the darkness of the past year…your great embrace of kindness, generosity, mercy and love have brought me back…thank you!

at the same time, i’m not foolish enough to think that just because i have found my smile again that that’s the same for others–the students, their families, and other staff members…i know well that some of these people remain in pain, i know well that some of these people haven’t been able escape the shadow…and may not be able to do so for months, years, or decades to come…

these people, these precious souls…are still on my worry list…

so, i hope and pray, that someday and some way…the storm will break, the tide will turn…and they will make it through…

 

 

 

 

what’s going on?!

that is a question many of us have had over the summer…maybe, even longer than that–maybe, for years now…

what is going on in our society?  what is going on in our criminal justice system? is what we’re seeing, what we’re being shown…the whole truth?

it seems like, when we consider the violence and death that has been at the forefront of american life this summer, there’s nothing short of 1000 teachable moments, important things–that we could impart to our children in these times–for them, for us, and for the future of our society in the united states…

personally, while all of the stories of the summer were unfolding (and continue to develop), i had a lot of different feelings and thoughts about what i was seeing…and i wanted to write about it (criminal justice)–especially, since it is the subject that i teach (at high school and college)–but, to be completely honest, the herding cats space didn’t seem quite right for that kind of thing, you know…

so, with that, i have started a new blog…one that goes a bit deeper than what we might see in the mainstream media…

importantly, if you’re like me and have an interest in these matters and want to take a closer look at what’s going on — then, please join me in this new endeavor (though, i think it will be a bit more intense and hard-hitting than what you see here)…

the new site is called…

detteronomy – a private investigation…into law, crime, and justice in america

and you can follow it at…

https://detteronomy.com/

now, don’t fret- this blog – herding cats – will go on…so, all you loyal followers out there–stay with me!!!  and, “thanks in advance” for continuing the journey!!!

thank you!

cheers!

dave dettmann.

our last day with our day care provider…

yesterday, we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives…our day care provider…

given the impact this woman had on our lives, i am re-posting (below) a post i shared more than 3 years ago…

everything in this post is still true today…or, more true…meaning, you just need to “times” all of the good shtuff i said below by ten thousand (x 10,000) and then you’ll be close to just how much my wife and i love and appreciate her, our day care provider…

note: in the first version of this post, i didn’t give out her actual name–for privacy reasons–but i’m gonna do that now…because if you’re out there (in the twin cities)–looking for a place for your kids–look no further, sign up today!!!

thank you, stefanie berge/sharon (owner/operator of tender heart childcare) you’re the best around!

to see what i’m talking about, please keep reading…

before i was a teacher, i worked with kids in many different settings…coming through a gauntlet of years in youth work & (now) teaching, it takes a lot to impress and inspire me in this field…

but, i have been truly impressed and inspired over the past 3+ years…

with our in-home day care provider…

and yes, i said in-home daycare provider!  …in-home daycare programs are often regarded as marginal, “fly-by-night” operations that may be alright in an emergency….but not as a “serious long-term consideration”…because people think that “they’re just not as good as centers” or a mom/dad staying home with their children…nor are they viewed as “safe places”–you get the feeling that this is one of the most horrific decisions you can make for your children–tantamount to sending a kid cross-country on an orphan train (esp. from my parent’s generation) …like your kids will end up abducted, abused, neglected, abandoned, in the emergency room, dead in the street and on the nightly news if you leave them there!!!  i heard the world saying, please report to the shame corner and turn in your parent card, now!

…this is not the case with our person, sharon–yes, her name has been changed to protect the innocent–or in the many cases of parents who use amazing in-home daycare providers each and every day…anyways, my wife did the first drop-n-go routine, through a river of tears (mind you, this is a person who cries over  the voice🙂 and i did the job three days later…and this is what happened…

i entered the house, took off my shoes, and proceeded downstairs to find my children…i was excited to see them…arriving downstairs, i made eye-contact with my son and daughter…they recognized me and smiled…but, they weren’t that excited to see me…they stayed where they were–by the side (son) and in the arms (daughter) of sharon…i thought, what the hell is this?!  i’ve been your father for nine months–you think that was a piece of cake–i was there when you were colicky, when you wouldn’t sleep, when you had that “projectile shit”–the rapid fire, .50 caliber shtuff that ‘took out’ the nursery room door–and this is how you repay me…how dare you?!  i mean, i had envisioned my children running from sharon, bounding towards me–their father–with outstretched arms (press play on can’t hold back by survivor)…but, it didn’t happen…so, i made funny faces, talked to them, waved for them to come to me…but still, they stayed with sharon…so, i hiked back upstairs, put my shoes on, went out to the van and grabbed the wonder bar…so-to-pry my children off of their in-home daycare provider!

…since those early days, we’ve seen and heard all about the amazing things they’ve learned from sharon…sign language, “how to wear a helmet with style”, music, how to pronounce their “t’s”, please and thank-you’s, “how to help”, potty training–you name it…she is unbelievable …so, let me just take this moment to say…thank you, thank you, thank you, sharon…for teaching our kids, for loving our kids like that…i am impressed and inspired…you’re the “+1” to my wife and i, you’re the best around…

remembering hurricane katrina (10 years later)…

i’d like to dedicate the following poem (which i wrote in the fall of 2005) to the victims of hurricane katrina…the hurricane formed on august 23, 2005 and hit new orleans on august 29, 2005…nearly 2,000 people died (and thousands more were affected) as a result of this natural disaster…

 

New Orleans

 

I

Crossing space, the natural acceleration

Wind and wave, the environmental devastation

Landscape, dismantled, in dislocation

Earth, uprooted, severed evisceration

Showcased, the city’s pulverization

Neighborhoods beat down, in dilapidation

Out of place, structure and foundation

House and home, decapitation

Everyplace in ruin, needing restoration

Storefront and business, vandalization

Music erased, quiet, no intonation

Silenced, sax and trumpet harmonization

The bone case, flesh annihilation

Corpse drifts by, in lifeless flotation

Displaced, parent-child relation

Friend and acquaintance, affiliation

In a footrace, to find family formation

Search lists, for personal identification

Misplaced, relative and kin location

To other states, through dissipation

Hungry-faced, with hand held out in expectation

Food and water, out of circulation

 

II

Poor and down-faced, forgotten aberration

Brought to national elevation

Black race, viewed in amplification

Human beings, seen living in marginalization

Collective conscious abased, alive at evocation

Inner sense, awakened at painful provocation

Though no trace, of official coordination

Authority, guidance and evacuation

Underestimated, government consideration

No help, from agency or organization

Disgraced, president on ranch recreation

This neglect, reason for confrontation

To save face, rushed to late visitation

Weak, the delayed amelioration

Worst-case, the historical ramification

Stories, passed on in passionate oration

God’s grace, breathed new life, resuscitation

Healing touch, sparks human regeneration

Tomorrow–make space, for return population

Residents start fresh, with new determination

Someday replace, this story of desperation

With hope, restore the soul of a nation.

keep striving

“excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”

-pat riley

in a few weeks, i will begin my ninth year as a high school teacher and my 17th year working with kids (of some sort and in some kind of setting)…

i don’t know how it is with other people in other careers, but in teaching, there is (lurking in the shadows) that ever-present temptation to get complacent or to “phone it in”…i mean, after you’ve been teaching for a while, there are certain things you’ve got down, things you know, like the back of your hand…

but, going down that road is precarious…

at the same time, you can see how it can happen, how all of us can fall into that trap…for instance, when i first started this “herding cats work”, i made great strides right away and really “wowed ’em”…my achievements were shiny and could be seen (by myself and by others)…but, as time went by, day after day, going through the same routines–it made me weary (on occasion) and i’d think, “what more can i do?”…

well, as an answer, i was recently re-inspired by a little japanese man named jiro ono…jiro is the subject of a 2011 documentary film (by david gelb) called, “jiro dreams of sushi”…and the story, his story is completely captivating…

jiro is the owner and head chef of the three-michelin-starred* sushi restaurant called, “jiro sukiyabashi” in tokyo, japan…and there’s five important things you need to know about this guy:

  1. jiro is 89 years old.
  2. jiro works every day.
  3. jiro has been making sushi for more than 70 years.
  4. jiro is widely recognized as the best sushi chef in the world.
  5. jiro still believes his sushi can be better.

[*important detail: michelin is a french company that publishes an annual guide on fine dining and accommodations–and, a three star rating is the highest–in this case, it means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.]

the last fact is the most remarkable to me…that, after all this time, after all this work…

jiro still believes his sushi can be better.

think about that for a moment…talk about inspiring!  at 17 years into my profession, i’ve got nothing on this guy…absolutely nothing…yet, there is a silver lining–the strides i make, nowadays, might not be as big, bold, or bright as the one’s i’ve made before…but, they are still significant little steps…

so, along these lines, i’ve tried to challenge myself for the past couple of years…by asking myself one simple question (to stoke the fires)…

how can i better “my last year self”?

and if i had to give an answer to that question right now…it would be…

i don’t know, but i know i can…and then…maybe, just maybe…coming to my classroom will be worth a special journey…

jiro

“always strive to elevate your craft.”

-jiro ono

(keep going out) where the wild things are…

“the core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.”
-jon krakauer

this summer has had its share of adventures (some planned, some unexpected)…in fact, i was just telling my wife that this has been one of the most action-packed summers of our life together…from road trips to utah and chicago, to camping at state parks around minnesota…i feel like we could’ve run our own outfitting group for travel adventures-

dett-fitters…

not only that, but my friend (nate) and i were able to take a long-awaited canoe trip down the southern part of the st. croix river…we had been talking about taking the trip off-and-on for the past 4 years…but, we both had experienced the arrival of our own children during that time–four children (two each), all told…so, i guess it wasn’t surprising that the trip wasn’t realized until just this summer?!

honestly, i’ve always loved the outdoors…but, i’ve been inspired, once again, by just how excited my children get when we go camping, especially, when we get the tent out…their sense of wonder is completely and absolutely unmatched…it is awesome…so, i was fired-up and determined to make the canoe trip happen this summer–and it was clear that nate was, too…

and as awesome as it was to have all those earlier adventures with my wife and kids…there was something equally as awesome (albeit different) about taking an overnight canoe trip with my friend…we put in at the osceola landing–after hitting the local pizza buffet and downing a couple of miller lites (it was 11am–so, that’s a good start right there)…we headed down the st. croix…the water was the perfect temperature, so we stopped a couple of times to get out and swim near some sand bars…afterwards, we continued on, stopping about 12 miles down to set up camp…after swimming and relaxing by the campsite the sun started to set…so, we went about our chores–and with a good campfire going, we had a hearty, man-made dinner of steak, potatoes and beans–and jack and cokes, of course (that dinner was tasty…and a bit nicer than what you’d get on your average outdoor trip, but hey, it was one night and we could pack the canoe!)… eventually, the fire faded, so we hung up our food and anything else that was “scented” (to keep the wild things away) and hit the hay…

the next morning, we woke to another sunny day…and a deer…checking out our campsite…just 10 feet away …it was unafraid…and, what an amazing sight?!  before breakfast, i had to make a run to the “bathroom”…so, with my trowel and tp in hand i walked a good distance from our site…i dug my hole and took care of business…there’s nothing better to test your mettle than “poopin’ in the woods” (i had to dig my hole pretty fast, too–it was coming!;) …anyways, after i shook out my leg cramp from my “yogi squat*”, i covered my hole with dirt and left no trace behind…i took care of the tp in our “burn can” (a new trick we learned), washed my hands, and relaxed as nate prepared breakfast–i was on dinner duty…

[*yes, i know what a “yogi squat” is…because i took a few yoga classes with my wife this summer…apparently, i need a few more classes, if i’m still getting leg cramps when crouching;)]

after a filling campfire omelette–eggs, cheese, and sausage in foil…and coffee…we took it easy and lounged a bit before hitting the river again…

all packed up and on the river, we continued south…we enjoyed the paddle and the conversation–it was good to be able to catch up on life…just “us men” and the open river…what a great trip it had been…

nate and i on the river

nate and i on the river

but, like all trips, there is a beginning and an end (or, at least, “until next time”)…and, after another 8 miles or so, we reached our destination–the boom site landing near stillwater, mn…

after loading up the canoe and gear, picking up the second vehicle near osceola, we returned to nate’s house to ‘break-down’ and claim our individual supplies…after a few words, we shook hands and went back to our everyday lives…

a few days later, when i was back at home, i thought…

it is important for men to do such things together, to have adventures together, to wonder…once again…at the world.

disturbing the peace

at the ultrasound, the sonographer told us, “yes, you are pregnant.”

we rejoiced.

then, he said, “wait a minute, there’s something…”

we froze. 

oh no, something’s wrong.

then, he said, “there’s another one, you’re going to have twins.”

we were shocked, floored–on the floor (literally)…we called family and friends and shared the news…a few days later, the aftershocks of what we were told started to hit us…it was an amazing, unexpected thing…and full of unknowns…

and, of course, “the unknowns” bothered me the most…

i had been dealing with some moderate levels of anxiety and panic before we got this news (details of which are best saved for another post or venue)…but, this news–the thought of having twins, two babies at once, ratcheted up the anxiety to new heights (as you could expect)…

i thought about going away for a night, to get my mind right…before the epic life change of “fatherhood” arrived…so, my wife, in her wisdom, mentioned a retreat center called pacem in terris–peace on earth–it was a place she had been to years before…a place where you can experience peace and quiet and solitude…

my wife, when telling me about this place, said that she had been there once (a while back) for a similar reason…for quiet solitude…she also told me that while the time away was good, she left back home before the full day was up… she told me that “the quiet” was too much for her…

i didn’t know what she meant, i didn’t know how powerful “the quiet” could be–until i went there myself…

so, i packed an overnight bag and a few snacks and headed up to pacem in terris…my wife had told me that all they provide is fruit, cheese, and bread–she knew better than most about my freakish metabolism–importantly, she knew that if i didn’t have a little extra sustenance i would first, shake…then tremble…and ultimately–implode…not good…

anyways, after a short drive (just north of the twin cities), i arrived and went to the welcome center…here, i was greeted by a sister (the place is faith-based and of the catholic variety–franciscan)…she welcomed me and visited with me for a short time about why i was there, some of the “rules of the hermitage*”–and she gave me a chapter from the bible to contemplate, if i wanted…it was psalm 139 (she told me that reading it over and over and over, like a meditation, was often a good thing to do)…

[*the little cabins on the property of the retreat center are called ‘hermitages’; and while you stay in an individual hermitage, you’re referred to as a ‘hermit’–there is no cost to stay there, though donations are appreciated]

she also told me (rather forcefully) that…one of the most important things about the hermitage was that it was a holy, peaceful, quiet space…and that, while i might see other hermits around (as i walked the footpaths of the property), i was not to speak to them, nor they to me–silence was the rule of the day, for every day..

so, i gathered my things and headed out to my hermitage…it was a tiny cabin, with a sink, bathroom, bed, and desk…on the desk table sat a basket that contained fruit, bread, cheese, and a welcome card…next to the desk, was a small burner, tea-pot and cup…after getting settled, i went about my day…i spent it sitting and journaling, reading a little henri nouwen, thinking about my wife (our life and twins), reading psalm 139, and walking on the footpaths…i only saw one other hermit on the trail…and we passed in silence like we were instructed to do…

day went on into night and i slept a quiet, restful sleep…before falling asleep, i thought to myself, my wife was right, it was difficult to stay quiet for that long (though i had only been there about 10 hours before ‘hitting the hay’)…but, i had made it to bedtime, with determination–all i had to do was sleep, wake up, and spend a few more hours at the retreat and i would accomplish what i set out to do…

waking up the next morning, i felt rested and alive and refreshed…this has been good, i thought…

so, i gathered my toiletries, towel, and a change of clothes and headed to the main building of the retreat center…it was the only place on the property that had showers for the hermits to use…i took a shower, washed my face, brushed my teeth, changed clothes, gathered my stuff and headed towards the bathroom door (it was a large single bathroom with a shower, sink, mirror, and toilet)…i was feeling good…

until…

i unlocked the latch, twisted the door knob and tried to open the bathroom door…

it wouldn’t budge…i jiggled the knob–no dice…i tinkered with the lock–nothing…i pushed/pulled on the door while jiggling the door knob–still nothing…

i looked at the door–stared it down, in fact…as if that would help…then, i looked around the bathroom…for anything, anything that i could use to ‘pop the hinges’ with…it wasn’t ideal, i didn’t want to ‘jack up’ the door, or worse, have to drop $200-$300 on a new door for the sisters…but, at that moment, it was better than the alternative…it was better than the unthinkable…

so, i scoured the bathroom…top to bottom, side to side…and found absolutely nothing to use…i also double-checked my shaving kit–nothing good in there, either…so, i put the lid on the toilet seat down, sat down, and chuckled to myself for a moment, thinking, i can’t believe this is happening?! then, i thought, my phone?! 

like a sweaty-toothed madman (shout out to ‘dead poets’, yo!), i searched my belongings…and found…my phone…i powered it on and found the number to the retreat center, i called it and got–the answering machine…the nuns were out…i cursed them under my breath…then immediately “crossed myself” and begged for forgiveness–sorry, sisters

i called again and again…finally leaving a message…

uh, yeah, hello, i’m one of your hermits and i’m locked in the bathroom in the lower level of the main building…if you get this, can you please come and let me out… 

i sat back down again and thought to myself…

maybe God is trying to tell me something…like i need more time alone?!  or maybe, my wife needs more time alone back home?! 🙂 …subtle, real subtle, big guy…

time went by…

then, i knew what i was going to have to do…the unthinkable…

make some noise…

let me say that again, if i wanted to get out of there i was going to have to break the unbreakable rule for pacem in terris and “break the silence”-

so, i got up and walked towards the door…i tried to open it once more–no luck…i pressed my ear to the door, listening, hoping that another hermit might be passing by…i didn’t hear anything or anyone…so, i called out…

is anyone there? i’m locked in here.

[i used a medium level tone/volume–i wasn’t fully committed to ‘sounding off’ in the silent world of pacem in terris]

all i heard in return was absolute silence…

i cursed under my breath again…and pumped myself up for the next round…thinking…

i’m gonna have to ‘get loud’.

so, this time…i took a deep breath…and then shouted and banged on the door…

no more peace.

no more quiet.

i went on for about 10 minutes, until he showed up…

he said: hello, in there.

i said: are you a hermit?!

he said: no, i’m the maintenance man.

i thought: praise Jesus!

i said: great, i’m locked in here can you help me out?

he said: yep.

he tinkered with the lock…for exactly one minute…then, it popped open!

i thanked him (enthusiastically).

not too long after that, i packed up my belongings and headed home…on the drive back i thought a lot about my time there…especially, the last little bit…

and one of the things i was reminded of is that God has a sense of humor…and that sometimes, we are so very serious about our lives, too serious…especially us religious folks–and especially, us christians…on that day, i was reminded of the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously…and that, while some things are indeed sacred–it’s important to laugh at ourselves once in a while…

regardless of what new, “unknowns” await us on the horizon…

love is thicker than water

but nothing lasts forever
your best efforts don’t always pay
sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better
that’s when life is short even in its longest days

-john mellencamp

my cousin died when she was 46…

her name was lisa and it happened last fall…

and i remember walking into the funeral home with my mom, dad, and sister…we came first to an anteroom, and upon entering, my eyes found her three children…one in college, one in high school and one in junior high…and then, i saw her husband coming ’round the corner…and that’s when i lost it…and then her husband lost it, too…and then we all embraced in a messy, tearful, tangled hug…

my aunt and uncle were there, too…bonnie and jay…and though they were visibly broken, somehow, some way they were keeping it together…my cousin john was there, too (lisa’s brother–it was always just the two of them)–wrecked, but holding strong as well…i guess they had all cried enough tears in the previous few weeks…lisa had been in the hospital for a little while before she died…and despite the fact that she had maintained an amazingly optimistic and hopeful attitude, right up until the end, the cancer was merciless and relentless…it would not be held at bay, it would not yield…

sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better…

so, over three days time, we went from the viewing, to the funeral service, to the burial and then to the reception …returning to my aunt and uncle’s place on occasion to regroup…it was weird, it was surreal…being around people who you normally long to see and visit with…our relatives, our family…yet, not having her there…it didn’t make sense…

along with that, i didn’t have a lot of experience being at funerals or knowing people who had died…in my world, it added up to a handful of people….most of them were older…grandparents, even great grandparents…people from “the greatest generation”…people who had lived long, full lives…and while we definitely felt the loss of their passing, their dying made more sense…and their funerals more closely resembled what people commonly call “happy funerals”…where the person “is celebrated” and the funeral is “a celebration”…

this wasn’t a “happy funeral”…this wasn’t “a celebration”…

this was sadness, grief, and pain…

i think everyone felt that it happened too soon…

probably because everyone that was there knew lisa…and if you knew her…you knew what living life really meant, you knew what true innocence and goodness and faith really meant…you knew it because when you saw her, when you talked to her…you would see it, you would hear it…and when you see that kind of life, that kind of life force…in a human being…you think to yourself...nothing on earth can stop that, nothing can extinguish that fire, that spirit…  

and when a light like that goes out, it goes dark for everyone who looked upon it…

that’s the way i felt (and feel), anyways…

and there was something else…there is something more to the story…

something remarkable, despite the utter pain of her passing…something unique about her story…from beginning to end, from birth ’til death…

the remarkable thing is the love that her family holds for one another…the four of the them–lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…now, don’t get me wrong they’re not perfect or without trial or tribulation…they’re like any other family–any other real family, that is, that goes through the up’s and down’s of life…and believe me, they’ve come through their own fires…and yet still remained–a family…a family that they created…in love…especially between lisa and her parents…and, most especially, between lisa and her mom, bonnie…a mother and daughter…but more than that, best friends…i guess it’s significant for me because lisa (and her brother, john) were adopted–early in their marriage my aunt and uncle came to realize that they couldn’t have children…but, they still wanted kids…so, they adopted lisa and john…

as a man, i have no idea what a woman experiences or feels when she’s told she can’t have kids…when she’s told she can’t give birth to her own children…i mean, i know women who have had that experience outside of this story and often think that…

that’s really, really terrible

because

man, she would be an amazing mom (and he would be an awesome dad)

then instantaneously, the same thought always pops into my head…

i wonder if they’ll adopt?

my thinking probably plays out like this because at my base, at my core…i know lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…i know their story…i know what they mean to me…

i know that their family was (and is) closer than some biological families are…

i know that bonnie and jay have always seen lisa and john as their own…their son, their daughter…

i know that we (my sister and i) always saw them as our cousins not our ‘adopted ones’…

i know that, growing up, they were (without a doubt) our closest cousins…

i know that they have been and always will be my family…

not by blood, but by love…

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