Thursday, September 30, 2004

A word or two on Merlin

Merlin was not my first cat, but he was perhaps one of my "best"--I have loved every animal companion that has been part of my life, but of all the cats I've lived with, Merlin was the one creature that epitomized absolute devotion to me. He was my buddy.

Merlin passed away on June 25, 1999,of complications due to Chronic Renal Failure. He was nine years old. It was in grieving him that I learned to connect with grief, and it was losing him that moved my career into grief counseling.

My favorite picture of Merlin. Ever.

I drew this after he died. terribly sentimental, yes.

Lucy, RIP

On July 30, 2003 I sent out notification of the death of Mr Kitty, one of the three cats Tom Walker and I herded during our relationship together. Not much more than a year later, I am writing to inform you of the death of Lucy, the third of our "children". (Merlin, the youngest of the three, died in 1999.)

The actual diagnosis did not come through, but all signs pointed to intestinal cancer. She deteriorated rapidly over the past month -- even over the last few days. Tom, as Lucy's caregiver, elected to ease her pain and arranged for a home visit from a vet from Takoma Park Animal Clinic. At roughly 9 pm this evening, at Tom's home, Lucy's suffering ended. As with Mister Kitty's death, I was privileged to be there for her final moments, and I was also thankful for Kevin Kiger's presence. I offered a prayer of thanks for Lucy's life and the gift of her companionship.

I have attached a picture of Lucy that I took today, within the last hour or so of her life. Even ill, she was still quite the beautiful beast.

Thank you all for having come into our (Tom's, mine, our extended family of cats and dogs and friends and partners) lives, and thank you for the concern and support you have expressed, and please keep us (especially Tom, whose life was most touched by Lucy) in your warm fuzzy thoughts.


Mourning is Hard Work

The "Tasks of Mourning"--constructed by J. William Worden (1991). The following language, including the names for the tasks, is mine however.

Note: this is something I wrote 2 months ago and rediscovered this morning. I'm posting it mostly to preserve it, but it has relevance to my life for many personal reasons.

Name Your Grief. If we are to grieve successfully, we must acknowledge our loss. There is never a single loss; it exists within a constellation of relationships. With the loss of a person can also come the loss of hopes, and dreams, and the fragile belief that we know what our future will be.

Express Your Grief. Do not go gently unto the night. Go kicking and screaming. Vent and rage. Feel all that there is to be felt: relief that the bad times are over; guilt that you have felt relief; anger and resentment. Who are we mad at? We are mad at the one who left. We are mad at our circumstances. We are mad at God, the author of our current misery.

Learn and Become. When we grieve, we suffer loss. What have we lost? Not simply a loved one--but someone who played some role in our lives. Perhaps it was a role worth forgetting; perhaps it was a vital part of our daily living. To grieve is to learn new tasks, even to take on these roles if need be.

Invest. We have a surplus of energy now. The energy was first, dedicated towards another. Then, it was dedicated to healing and growth as we experience fully the sorrow of loss. Then, in time, we must learn that it is okay to take that energy and put it into other things and other relationships.

Believe again. We lose an entire worldview when we grieve. We can more easily learn new roles or invest energy into new people than we can reconstruct a shattered philosophy. Or is it in the act of re-investing and re-imagining our lives that we are in fact building a new philosophy, one that is more tested and tried by life's fire?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Seeking More; Wanting Less

I think we are caught in an interesting tension--the tension of seeking more, on the one hand, and of accepting what we have, on the other.

Those who seek more can be achievers, can be highly motivated; it is what brings us away from stagnation, from a status-quo in which growth is stunted. And yet it can also force us to live in a future-orientation, forgetting what we have, even dismissing it; at its worse it can be craving, attachment to an outcome.

Yet the flip side of this is acceptance. Seen positively, it allows us to breathe deeply of our life, to accept what G-d has given to us, to not squander what we have in favor of what we want. Seen negatively--it is lethargy, it is an utter lack of ambition, and it is the end of growth.

How do we walk the line between accepting and achieving? Perhaps there is no line, but in my own life it simply represents two poles of being. I have not been satisifed with much in my life, of late; does that mean that I should actively seek more, strive to become more, and attain more? Or does it require a reframing of my situation, and my outlook on my situation so that I accept what has been given to me?

It is the struggle of being versus becoming. Life is that tension between the two, it seems, so that we neither fall into stagnation nor are ruined by cravings.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


I wrote this as a posting to a friend's blog. I'm resubmitting here (for posterity? vanity?) with some minor edits.

The ghosts in my childhood are not confined to one locale; they follow me on my path, at times standing in my way. There are ghosts in my current home--and they haunt me with regret, they taunt me, and at times they try to mentor me.

I have had to accept my ghosts: I created them. I'm simply tired of creating more, and fearing the creation of yet more. I don't want my ghosts to leave, actually; they're the ancestors of my past, the predecessors of today. I wish they would find peace, though, and offer me guidance and support and not the harsh tongues of criticism and reminders of things gone awry.

Ghosts, spirits, dragons. The numina of buried experience, painful memories, and even ecstasies given life. The sighs too deep for words create these things that are part of our personal spiritual entourage; will they comfort us or cajole? Will they teach or will they terrorize? The goal, I believe, is integration of past and present and future, memory and hope alike.

Blog, Revived

I've managed to move most of my blog from over to this space. Some posts didn't make it; the herd had to be culled.

We'll see if this blog survives, and if it thrives. I'm in a period of intense liminality, a murky valley filled with the unknown. Some room for reflection will be nice. A place I can return to, and maybe even share some of my reflections, will also be nice.

This will not be a space for me to unveil for the world every personal foible or neuroses. (Yes, we all have them; its part of the human condition.) The events in my life go through multiple layers of reflection:
  • the visceral level, my gut reaction
  • the dialectical level, where I've had some time to think about things
  • the theological level, where I've let them sit in my soul for a bit
I'm sure there are more. This is an off-the-cuff analysis, not a systematic exposition of layers of response and reflection. My major point is: you won't hear me complaining about satellite TV reception, a rainy day, or a loved one. I aim to discuss only those things for which I have engaged in some internal dialogue, or even better, can hold in my soul and can reflect on. Which means this blog might run from fertile to barren in any given time.