Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adventures in Linear Time.......and Happy New Year

Photo:  Steve Jurvetson








For someone with college degrees, I really understand so little about the way the world and the cosmos truly works. Dad, when you passed, you had prepared me for that day all of my life. I knew very clearly that I had been prepared to stand alone, if need be, and to complete my tasks on Earth without you. Thank you for such a fantastic job of teaching me to stand tall, no matter what happens in the world. I accepted your passing and somehow knew you would know how I was doing as I complete my tasks on Earth. Daniel, in 2008, I never expected you to pass to spirit before me. My focus was preparing you and your siblings to stand tall without me and without your Dad, just as I had been prepared to. I did not know that you were intended for a different set of tasks than I imagined during your time on Earth. After you passed in late 2008, I didn't want it to become 2009. I still thought that somehow, if there were any justice in the universe at all that somehow, I could return to 2008, or remain in it, and not move forward until you somehow came with me. Each year since, I have approached a new year with reticence and perhaps a little dread. I am in uncharted waters now. If a child of mine with no known medical problems could pass without clear cause on autopsy, then truly anything can happen in this life, and sometimes I am truly frightened as the years pass. Somehow, 2009, became 2010, and quickly 2010 became 2011. The US economy deteriorated over this time, and the people entrusted with course corrections not only fell asleep at the wheel, but they appeared to do things counter to actual rational course corrections. The entire bus is headed into a ditch. Part of me feels relief sometimes that you will not have to navigate in a world in which college, getting a first job, and supporting a family are becoming increasingly difficult. I know you would have done it, and done it well, but your tasks would have been true challenges in the environment which now exists in the US.
This year, although I know that difficult times are to come for both the world, and especially for the United States, I am doing better with the idea that 2011 will become 2012, and will do so in a number of hours. I will even celebrate it. I will celebrate it because James needs to spend some time celebrating milestones in his life and with his still new family. I will do it for another reason I finally realized. As fast as the years flow, then the closer to the end of my time on Earth we are, and then, we become closer to my seeing you again. Can you believe, my dear, it took me three years to figure this out ? Another year is being put to bed, and I am just that much closer to being home with you and Dad.  I will not forget to use the rest of time on Earth wisely, just watch.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ben Breedlove's Story




This is Part One and Part Two of a video made by eighteen year old Ben Breedlove of Austin, Texas.
Ben has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In these videos, he tells of some of his experiences. Ben passed away on Christmas evening of this year.
       We send condolences to his family. Ben, Thank you for these videos. They will help many people to know what you have experienced.
To Ben's family,   In the beginning the remembrances of your son's passing will be very prominent in your lives, but as time goes on, the memories of Ben's life will loom larger and larger, obstructing the sadder or more bittersweet ones. May you feel God's presence as He holds you both gently and tightly through these days.


Those who wish to leave online condolences for Ben's family can do so at:

www.cookwaldenfuneralhome. com


It was no surprise to me, that Ben's middle name, is also Daniel.















Benjamin Daniel Breedlove


UPDATE: December 30, 2011 Ben's funeral was attended by more than 1500 people. More than that, couldn't get in. People who were there said that his family, especially sister Ally, and his mother Deanne especially modeled the strong faith that Ben so clearly had. Ben, just as you had thought, they made you proud with their courage and their conviction of their faith. Godspeed.





UPDATE: This is an additional later post of ours concerning Ben Breedlove, and his family's new book, written by his sister Ally.







Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pondering Life After Death




  On the occasion of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, I wanted to share something with you.
  The following is the writing of St. John Maximovitch

.Whether he has everything correct or not, does not matter. What is interesting is that he explains many of the things that mediums of today have said, and a few things that Daniel has told me in dreams.


Life After Death


by St. John Maximovitch


A description of the first 40 days after death.

Limitless and without consolation would have been our sorrow for close ones who are dying, if the Lord had not given us eternal life. Our life would be pointless if it ended with death. What benefit would there then be from virtue and good deed? Then they would be correct who say: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"
But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously. Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death. "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). Then a man leaves all his earthly cares; the body disintegrates, in order to rise anew at the General Resurrection. Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see. [1]
But when it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them. [2]
For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. [3] At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it.
According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called "toll-houses," at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God Herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of Her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. Terrible indeed is the third day for the soul of the departed, and for this reason it especially needs prayers then for itself. [4]
Then, having successfully passed through the toll-houses and bowed down before God, the soul for the course of 37 more days visits the heavenly habitations and the abysses of hell, not knowing yet where it will remain, and only on the fortieth day is its place appointed until the resurrection of the dead. [5] Some souls find themselves (after the forty days) in a condition of foretasting eternal joy and blessedness, and others in fear of the eternal torments which will come in full after the Last Judgment. Until then changes are possible in the condition of souls, especially through offering for them the Bloodless Sacrifice (commemoration at the Liturgy), and likewise by other prayers. [6]
How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov [7], the priest-monk (the renowned Starets Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, who died in 1916) who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: "I thank you for laboring with me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents" -- and he gave their names (Priest Nikita and Maria). "How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God's mercy?" the priest-monk asked. "Yes, that is true," replied St. Theodosius, "but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer."
Therefore, panikhidas (i.e., Trisagion Prayers for the Dead) and prayer at home for the dead are beneficial to them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead and other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures and have obtained repose. In the Church prayers are ever offered for the repose of the dead, and on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the kneeling prayers at vespers, there is even a special petition "for those in hell."
Every one of us who desires to manifest his love for the dead and give them real help, can do this best of all through prayer for them, and particularly by commemorating them at the Liturgy, when the particles which are cut out for the living and the dead are let fall into the Blood of the Lord with the words: "Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated by Thy Precious Blood and by the prayers of Thy saints."
We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them, offering commemoration for them at the Liturgy. Of this they are always in need, and especially during those forty days when the soul of the deceased is proceeding on its path to the eternal habitations. The body feels nothing then: it does not see its close ones who have assembled, does not smell the fragrance of the flowers, does not hear the funeral orations. But the soul senses the prayers offered for it and is grateful to those who make them and is spiritually close to them.
O relatives and close ones of the dead! Do for them what is needful for them and within your power. Use your money not for outward adornment of the coffin and grave, but in order to help those in need, in memory of your close ones who have died, for churches, where prayers for them are offered. Show mercy to the dead, take care of their souls. [8]
Before us all stands the same path, and how we shall then wish that we would be remembered in prayer! Let us therefore be ourselves merciful to the dead.
As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call or inform a priest, so he can read the Prayers appointed to be read over all Orthodox Christians after death.
Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in Church and to have the Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral.
Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the forty-day memorial, that is, daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course of forty days. (NOTE: If the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives should take care to order the forty-day memorial wherever there are daily services.) It is likewise good to send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places.
Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world before us, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Footnotes:

[1] But his soul continues to live. Not for an instant does it cease to exist. Our external, biological and earthly life ends with death, but the soul continues to live on. The soul is our very existence, the center of all our energies and our thoughts. The soul moves and gives life to the body. After its separation from the body it continues to live, to exist, to have awareness.
St. Theophan the Recluse, in a message to a dying woman, writes: "You will not die. Your body will die, but you will over to a different world, being alive, remembering yourself and recognizing the whole world that surrounds you."
St. Dorotheos (6th century) summarizes the teaching of the early Fathers in this way: "For as the Fathers tell us, the souls of the dead remember everything that happened here -- thoughts, words, desires -- and nothing can be forgotten. But, as it says in the Psalm, 'In that day all their thoughts shall perish' (Psalm 145:5).
The thoughts he speaks of are those of this world, about houses and possessions, parents and children, and business transactions. All these things are destroyed immediately when the soul passes out of the body. But what he did against virtue or against his evil passions, he remembers and none of this is lost. In fact, the soul loses nothing that it did in the world but remembers everything at its exit from this body."
St. John Cassian (5th century) likewise teaches: "Souls after the separation from this body are not idle, do not remain without consciousness; this is proved by the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-28). The souls of the dead do not lose their consciousness, they do not even lose their dispositions -- that is, hope and fear, joy and grief, and something of that which they expect for themselves at the Universal Judgment they begin already to foretaste."
[2] He who departs from this world experiences much consolation when he sees friendly people surrounding his dead body. Such a person discerns in his beloved friends' tears of pain their love and sincere dedication. The greatest earthly joy is undoubtedly the realization that we die honored and appreciated by all who knew us.
But just as at the hour of death the dead body is surrounded by relatives and friends, so also is the soul, which abandons the body and is directed towards its heavenly homeland, accompanied by the spiritual beings related to it.
The virtuous soul is surrounded by bright angels of light, while the sinful soul is surrounded by dark and evil beings, that is, the demons.
St. Basil The Great (4th century) explains it this way: "Let no one deceive you with empty words; for destruction will come suddenly upon you; it will come like a storm. A grim angel (i.e., a demon) will come to take and drag violently the soul that has been tied to sins; and your soul will turn toward here and will suffer silently, having already been excluded from the organ of mourning (the body). O how you will be troubled at the hour of death for yourself! How you will sigh!"
St. Macarius Of Egypt writes of this: "When you hear that there are rivers of dragons and mouths of lions (cf. Heb 11:33, Ps 22:21) and dark powers under the sky and burning fire (Jer 20:9) that crackles in the members of the body, you must know this: unless you receive the earnest of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5), at the hour when your soul is separated from the body, the evil demons hold fast to your soul and do not suffer you to rise up to heaven."
This same Father also teaches us: "When the soul abandons the body a certain great mystery is enacted. If the deceased has departed unrepentant, a host of demons and rejected angels and dark powers receive that soul and keep it with them. The completely opposite happens with those who have repented: for near the holy servants of God there are now angels and good spirits standing by, surrounding and protecting them, and when they depart from the body, the choir of angels receive their souls to themselves, to the pure aeon."
The champion of Orthodoxy against the Nestorian heresy, St. Cyril Of Alexandria likewise teaches: "When the soul is separated from the body it sees the fearful, wild, merciless and fierce demons standing by. The soul of the righteous is taken by the holy angels, passed through the air and is raised up."
St. Gregory The Dialogist writes: "One must reflect deeply on how frightful the hour of death will be for us, what terror the soul will then experience, what remembrance of all the evils, what forgetfulness of past happiness, what fear, and what apprehension of the Judge. Then the evil spirits will seek out in the departing soul its deeds; then they will present before its view the sins towards which they had disposed it, so as to draw their accomplice to torment. But why do we speak only of the sinful soul, when they come even to the chosen among the dying and seek out their own in them, if they have succeeded with them? Among men there was only One Who before His suffering fearlessly said: 'Hereafter I talk not much with you: For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me (John 14:30)."
This truth is confirmed by various liturgical services. For example, in Small Compline we ask THE MOTHER OF GOD to "be merciful to me not only in this miserable life, but also at the time of my death; take care of my miserable soul and banish far from it the dark and sinister faces of the evil demons."
In a prayer of the Midnight Service of Saturday (addressed to THE SAVIOUR) we pray: "Master, be merciful to me and let not my soul see the dark and gloomy sight of the evil spirits, but let bright and joyous angels receive it."
Again, in another hymn to THE THEOTOKOS (from the Monday Matins service) we pray: "At the fearful hour of death free us from the horrible decision of the demons seeking to condemn us." Similar prayers, addressed to the Lord and to the Holy Angels, are found throughout the service for the Repose of the Dying.
[3] Here, St. John is simply repeating a teaching common to the Church. St. Macarius Of Alexandria (having received the teaching not from men but from an angel) explains: "When an offering (i.e., the Eucharist) is made in Church on the third day, the soul of the departed receives from its guardian angel relief from the sorrow it feels as a result of the separation from the body.
In the course of two days the soul is permitted to roam the earth, wherever it wills, in the company of the angels that are with it. Therefore, the soul loving the body, sometimes wanders about the house in which its body has been laid out, and thus spends two days like a bird seeking its nest.
But the virtuous soul goes about those places in which it was wont to do good deeds.
On the third day, He Who Himself rose from the dead on the third day, commands the Christian soul, in imitation of His Resurrection, to ascend to the Heavens to worship the God of all."
St. John Of Damascus vividly describes the state of the soul, parted from the body but still on earth, helpless to contact the loved ones whom it can see, in the Orthodox Funeral Service: "Woe is me! What manner of ordeal doth the soul endure when it is parted from the body! Alas! How many then are its tears, and there is none to show compassion! It raiseth its eyes to the angels; all unavailing is its prayer. It stretcheth out its hands to men, and findeth none to succor. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, meditating on the brevity of our life, let us beseech of Christ rest for him who hath departed hence, and for our souls great mercy."
St. Theophan, in writing to the brother of a dying woman, says: "Your sister will not die; the body dies, but the personality of the dying one remains. It only goes over to another order of life. It is not she whom they will put in the grave. She is in another place. She will be just as alive as you are now. In the first hours and days she will be around you. Only she will not say anything, and you won't be able to see her; but she will be right here. Have this in mind."
[4] There is absolutely no doubt that the teaching of the toll-houses is the teaching of the Orthodox Church. We find this teaching in Holy Scripture (cf. Eph 6:12), the writings of all the Church Fathers (both ancient and modern) and throughout the prayers of the Church.
St. ATHANASIUS THE GREAT, in his famous life of St. Antony, describes the following:
"At the approach of the ninth hour, after beginning to pray before eating food, Antony was suddenly seized by the Spirit and raised up by angels into the heights. The aerial demons opposed his progress: the angels disputing with them, demanded that the reason of their opposition be set forth, because Antony had no sins at all. The demons strove to set forth the sins committed by him from his very birth; but the angels closed the mouths of the slanderers, telling them that they should not count the sins from his birth which had already been blotted out by the grace of Christ; but let them present -- if they have any -- the sins he committed after he entered monasticism and dedicated himself to God. In their accusation the demons uttered many brazen lies; but since their slanders were wanting in proof, a free path opened for Antony. Immediately he came to himself and saw that he was standing in the same place where he had stood for prayer. Forgetting about food, he spent the night in prayer with tears and groanings, reflecting on the multitude of man's enemies, on the battle against such an army, on the difficultly of the path to heaven through the air, and on the words of the Apostle who said: 'Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air' (Eph 6:12; Eph 2:2).
The Apostle, knowing that the aerial powers are seeking only one thing, are concerned over it with all fervor, exert themselves and strive to deprive us of a free passage to heaven, exhorts: 'Take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day (Eph 6:13), that the adversary may be put to shame, having no evil thing to say of us (Tit 2:8)."
St. John Chrysostom, describing the hour of death, teaches:
"Then we will need many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, a great intercession from angels on the journey through the spaces of the air. If when traveling in a foreign land or a strange city we are in need of a guide, how much more necessary for us are guides and helpers to guide us past the invisible dignities and powers and world-rulers of this air, who are called persecutors and publicans and tax-collectors."
St. Isaiah The Recluse (6th century) teaches that Christians should
"daily have death before our eyes and take care how to accomplish the departure from the body and how to pass by the powers of darkness who are to meet us in the air."
St. Hesychius, Presbyter of Jerusalem (5th century) teaches:
"The hour of death will find us, it will come, and it will be impossible to escape it. Oh, if only the prince of the world and the air who is then to meet us might find our iniquities as nothing and insignificant and might not be able to accuse us justly."
St. EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN (4th century) thus describes the hour of death and the hour of judgment at the toll-houses:
"When the fearful hour comes, when the divine takers-away command the soul to be translated from the body, when they draw us away by force and lead us away to the unavoidable judgment place -- then, seeing them, the poor man comes all into a shaking as if from an earthquake, is all in trembling. The divine takers-away, taking the soul, ascend in the air where stand the chiefs, the authorities and world-rulers of the opposing powers. These are our accusers, the fearful publicans, registrars, tax-collectors; they meet it on the way, register, examine and count all the sins and debts of this man -- the sins of youth and old age, voluntary and involuntary, committed in deed, word and thought. Great is the fear here, great the trembling of the poor soul, indescribable the want which it suffers then from the incalculable multitudes of its enemies surrounding it there in myriads, slandering it so as not to allow it to ascend to heaven, to dwell in the light of the living, to enter the land of life. But the holy angels, taking the soul, lead it away."
St Cyril of Alexandria explains this further:
"As the soul ascends, it finds tax officials guarding the ascent, holding and preventing the souls from ascending. Each one of these custom stations presents its own particular sins of the souls. But, by the same token, the good angels do not abandon the soul to these evil stations. At the time of its accounting the angels offer in turn the soul's good works.
In fact, the holy angelic powers enumerate to the evil spirits the good acts of the soul that were done by word, deed, thought and imagination. If the soul is found to have lived piously and in a way pleasing to God, it is received by the holy angels and transferred to that ineffable joy of the blessed and eternal life.
But, if it is found to have lived carelessly and prodigally, it hears the most harsh word: 'Let the ungodly be taken away, that he not see the glory of the Lord' (Isa 26:10).
Then the holy angels with profound regret abandon the soul and it is received by those dark demons so that may fling it with much malevolence into the prisons of Hades."
An early Church catchiest, referring to custom officials who collected taxes, relays to us the common Church teaching:
"I know of other tax collectors who after our departure from this present life inspect us and hold us to see if we have something that belongs to them." The same catchiest goes on to say: "I wonder how much we must suffer at the hands of those evil angels, who inspect everything and who, when someone is found unrepentant, demand not only the payment of taxes simply, but also seize and hold us completely captive" (Origen).
This view is upheld by our great Father, St. Basil. Speaking about the courageous athletes of the faith, he teaches that they too will be scrutinized by the "revenue officials," that is, by the evil spirits. The same Father also says that the evil spirits observe the departure of the soul with so much more vigilant attention than do enemies over a besieged city or thieves over a treasury house. St. John Chrysostom likewise calls demons "revenue officials" who threaten us and who are "overbearing powers with a fearful countenance that horrifies the soul that looks upon them."
In another place St. John says that these evil spirits are called "persecutors and revenue officials and collectors of taxes in the Sacred Scripture." According to St. John, even the souls of innocent infants must pass through these toll-houses, for the all-evil devil seeks to snatch their souls, too. However, the infants make the following confession (according to St. John): "We have passed by the evil spirits without suffering any harm. For the dark custom officials saw our spotless body and were put to shame; they saw the soul good and pure and were embarrassed; they say the tongue immaculate and pure and blameless and they were silenced; we passed by and humiliated them. This is why the holy angles of God who met and received us rejoiced, the righteous greeted us with joy and the saints with delight said, 'Welcome, the lambs of Christ!'"
Probably the clearest and most comprehensive account of the toll-houses is that given by an angel of the Lord to St. Macarius Of Egypt:
"From the earth to heaven there is a ladder and a each rung has a cohort of demons. These are called toll-houses and the evil spirits meet the soul and bring its handwritten accounts and show these to the angels, saying: on this day and such and such of the month this soul did that: either it stole or fornicated or committed adultery or engaged in sodomy or lied or encouraged someone to an evil deed. And everything else evil which it has done, they show to the angels. The angels then show whatever good the soul has done, charity or prayer or liturgies or fasting or anything else.
And the angels and the demons reckon up, and if they find the good greater than the evil, the angels seize the soul and take it up the next rung, while the demons gnash their teeth like wild dogs and make haste the snatch that pitiable soul from the hands of the Angels. The soul, meanwhile, cowers and terror encompasses it, and it makes as if to hide in the bosom of the Angels and there is a great discussion and must turmoil until that soul is delivered from the hands of the demons.
And they come again to another rung and there find another toll-house, fiercer and more horrible. And in this too, there is much uproar and great and indescribable turbulence as to who shall take that wretched soul. And shouting out aloud, the demons examine the soul, causing terror and saying: 'Where are you going? Aren't you the one who fornicated and thoroughly polluted Holy Baptism? Aren't you the one who polluted the angelic habit? Get back. Get down. Get yourself to dark Hell. Get yourself to the outer fire. Get going to that worm that never sleeps.'
Then if it be that that soul is condemned, the demons bear it off to below the earth, to a dark and distressing spot. And woe to that soul in which that person was born. And who shall tell, holy Father, the straits in which the condemned souls will find themselves in that place!
But if the soul is found clean and sinless, it goes up the Heaven with such joy."
Descriptions of the aerial toll-houses may also be found in the following Saints' lives:
  • St. EUSTRATIUS THE GREAT MARTYR (4th century)
  • St. NIPHON OF CONSTANTIA in Cyprus (4th century)
  • St. SYMEON THE FOOL FOR CHRIST (6th century)
  • St. JOHN THE MERCIFUL (7th century)
  • St SYMEON OF THE WONDROUS MOUNTAIN (7th century)
  • St. MACARIUS THE GREAT (4th century)
  • St. COLUMBA (6th century)
  • St. ADAMNAN (8th century)
  • St. BONIFACE (8th century)
  • St. BASIL THE NEW (10th century)
  • The Soldier TAXIOTES
  • St. JOHN OF THE LADDER (6th century)
This very ancient teaching of the early Church Fathers and ascetic Saints is confirmed by the experience and teaching of saints more modern. St. Seraphim Of Sarov relates:
"Two nuns passed on. Both had been abbesses. The Lord revealed to me that their souls were having difficulty getting through the aerial toll-houses. Three days and nights, I, a lowly sinner, prayed and begged the Mother Of God for their salvation. The goodness of the Lord, through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother Of God, finally had mercy upon them. They passed the aerial toll-houses and received forgiveness of sins."
Likewise, St. Theophan The Recluse writes:
"No matter how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our 'wise men,' they will not escape passing through them. What do these toll-gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek whether people might have some of their goods. What kind of goods?
Passions.
Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passion, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning.
To this someone who has a little education expressed the following thought: The toll-houses are something frightful. But it is quite possible that the demons, instead of something frightful, might present something seductive. They might present something deceptive and seductive, according to the kinds of passions, to the soul as it passes through one after the other.
When, during the course of life, the passions have been banished from the heart and the virtues opposed to them have been planted, then no matter what seductive thing you might present, the soul, having no kind of sympathy for it, passes by it, turning away from it with disgust. But when the heart has not been cleansed, the soul will rush to whatever passion the heart has most sympathy for; and the demons will take it like a friend, and then they know where to put it.
Therefore, it is very doubtful that a soul, as long as there remain in it sympathies for the objects of any passion, will not be put to shame at the toll-houses. Being put to shame here means that the soul itself is thrown into hell."
In another place, St. Theophan (continuing his letter to the brother of the woman who was about to die) writes:
"In the departed there soon begins the struggle of going through the toll-houses. Here she needs help! Stand then in thought, and you will hear her cry to you: Help! This is where you should direct all your attention and all your love for her. Immerse yourself in prayer for her in her new condition and her new, unexpected needs. Having begun thus, remain in unceasing crying out to God to help her, for the course of six weeks, and indeed for longer than that.
In the account of Theodora, the bag from which the angels took in order to be separated from the tax-collectors was the prayers of her elder. Your prayers will do the same; do not forget to do this. This is love!"
Significantly, all of this testimony is confirmed by the liturgical prayers of the Church. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov cites over 20 examples of references to the Toll-houses in the Divine service books and this is not a complete list!
[5] According to the revelation of the angel to St. Macarius, the Church's special commemoration of the departed on the 9th day after death (apart from the general significance of the ranks of angels) occurs because up to then the soul is shown the beauties of Paradise, and only after this, for the remainder of the forty days, is sown the torments and horrors of hell, before being assigned on the fortieth day to the place where it will await the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.
[6] The Church's teaching on the state of souls in heaven and hell before the Last Judgment is set forth in its clearest fashion by St. Mark Of Ephesus in his dialogue with the Roman Catholics over the Roman doctrine of Purgatory (which the Orthodox reject as false). It is an extensive collection of writings, and much of it is beyond the focus of this limited study. The following should suffice, however, to illustrate the Orthodoxy of St. John Maximovitch's words:
"Those reposed in faith are without doubt helped by the Liturgies and prayers and almsgiving performed for them, and that this custom has been in force from antiquity, there is the testimony of many and various utterances of the Teachers, both Latin and Greek, spoken and written at various times and in various places. But that souls are delivered thanks to a certain purgatorial suffering and temporal fire which possesses such (a purgatorial) power and has the character of a help -- this we do not find in either Scripture or in the prayers and hymns for the dead, or in the words of the Teachers.
But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell and are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for final deliverance.
And this is shown by the words of the great Macarius the Egyptian ascetic who, finding a skull in the desert, was instructed by it concerning this by the action of Divine Power.
And Basil The Great, in the prayers read at Pentecost, writes literally the following:
'Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, are graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hell, granting us a great hope of improvement for those who are imprisoned from the defilements which have imprisoned them, and that Thou wilt send down Thy consolation' (Third Kneeling Prayer at Vespers).
But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which -- even though have repented over them -- they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definitive punishment in some place (for this, as we have said, has not at all been handed down to us).
But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body (as St. Gregory The Dialogist literally shows); while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or -- if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration -- they are kept in hell, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard.
All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind.
And so, we entreat God and believe to deliver the departed (from eternal torment), and not from any other torment or fire apart from those torments and that fire which have been proclaimed to be forever."
St. MARK further explains the state of the departed in this way:
"We affirm that neither the righteous have as yet received the fullness of their lot and that blessed condition for which they have prepared themselves here through works, nor have sinners, after death, been led away into the eternal punishment in which they shall be tormented eternally. Rather, both the one and the other must necessarily take place after the Judgment of that last day and the resurrection of all.
Now, however, both the one and the other are in places proper to them: the first, in absolute repose and free, are in heaven with the angels and before God Himself, and already as if in Paradise from which Adam fell and often visit us in those temples where they are venerated, and hear those who call on them and pray for them to God, having received from Him this surpassing gift, and through their relics perform miracles and take delight in the vision of God and the illumination sent from Him more perfectly and purely than before, when they were alive;
while the second, in their turn, being confined to hell, remain in 'the lowest pit, in darkness and in the shadow of death' (Ps 87:7), as David says, and then Job: 'to the land where the light is darkness' (Job 10:21-22).
And the first remain in every joy and rejoicing, already expecting and only not having in their hands the Kingdom and the unutterable good things promised them;
and the second, on the contrary, remain in all confinement and inconsolable suffering, like condemned men awaiting the Judge's sentence and foreseeing the torments.
Neither have the first yet received the inheritance of the Kingdom and those good things 'which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man' (1 Cor 2:9); nor have the second part yet been given over to eternal torments nor to burning in the unquenchable fire. And this teaching we have as handed down from our Fathers in antiquity and we can easily present it from the Divine Scriptures themselves."
St. GREGORY THE GREAT, in answering the question, "Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit souls after death?" teaches:
"The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them. The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one's exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise the world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son."
Many incidents from the Lives of Orthodox saints and ascetics confirm this teaching.
[7] The Apostolic Constitutions (1st/2nd century) teach that Memorials for the dead be served with "psalms and readings and prayers" on the third day after the death of our beloved one, on account of the Lord Jesus "who rose after three days."
They prescribe Memorials on the ninth day "as a reminder of the living and the dead," as well as "on the fortieth day after death according to ancient practice."
This is how the people of Israel mourned for the great Moses. In addition to these we must have annual Memorials in remembrance of the deceased. This teaching is also given by St. Isidoros Of Pelusium, St. Symeon The New Theolgian and St. Gregory The Theologian.
In addition to these Memorials, our holy Church has ordained that the Sabbath (Saturday) be a day of commemoration of the Holy Martyrs and of all the deceased. For the Sabbath, as the seventh day from the beginning of creation, is the day which saw bodily death, imposed upon man by the righteous God. This day is continued, in as much as the death of man is also continued at the same time, Sunday, however, is the "day of the Resurrection, the eighth day, which symbolizes the anticipated age of eternity, the resurrection of the dead and the endless kingdom of God."
Our Mother Church has also ordained common Memorials twice a year: on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and on the Saturday before the great feast of Holy Pentecost.
St. John Of Damascus adds: "the Apostles who speak for God and the spirit-bearing Fathers have decreed this with inspiration and in a manner pleasing to God."

Please see:      http://www.orthodox.net/articles/life-after-death-john-maximovitch.html

Please donate to their prison ministry if you are able.





 

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Last Errand Before Christmas





This morning Adam and I had just a few more Christmas errands to run before settling down at the farm with the rest of the family to celebrate Christmas. We needed to take a gift to a friend of mine, also named Alexandra. She had surprized me with one, earlier in the week. We also had a card returned with forwarding time expired, and I did some research, found the new address and repackaged the card to go to friends in Utah. Our post office is a general store in the middle of nowhere in farm country. It's a beautiful bucolic setting, and a meeting place of sorts. Some days we sit there talking to neighbors and farmers getting the news and hearing about our areas interesting concerns. There is bookcase there with framed pictures of people from the area. Daniel's picture is prominently displayed there, well known to the regulars as the really articulate homeschooled boy who used to come to the post office each day with his mom, and sometimes with his older siblings after they learned to drive. As we left the post office and headed past several farms, we noticed about eight lovely goats of different colors, sizes and ages. We remembered that a friend down the street had goats, and so we drove immediately to tell him. We got there to find that he already knew, and that these were not his goats. He was not concerned and thought they would likely return to where they were fed. Adam talked to him while I sat in the car. All the while Adam was patting a very large sheep who seemed very friendly. When we finally left, Adam told me that the man had offered to give him the sheep. She was a New Zealand haired sheep, meaning that she does not need sheering. She was apparently one of their first sheep and was socialized to human beings and doesn't like sheep much. He thought Adam would be attentive to her. Adam thanked him very much, but he also felt that he could not be as attentive to her as she deserved. We have many animals and sometimes it's hard to spend as much time with them as we would like, other than feeding, watering, and pen maintenance. Still, it's nice to be offered live creatures, as Adam is, fairly often.




This is a lovely scene and not unlike our home, but this year, we have not yet had snow.





















Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Surviving Christmas




For the families of children who have passed, either suddenly or before it would have been rational to expect them to pass from Earth, Christmas is not a happy day. Our culture gears up for the happiest of days, leaving those of us who have known loss near this time, in the dust. People buy special clothing, they decorate their homes, attend special gatherings and make special food. To many of us, this is a celebration with a child missing. In our house, the person missing is the person who loved Christmas most of all. Daniel had been our youngest and Christmas and other holidays had been a joy to him. The other kids enjoyed Christmas but were old enough to be cultivating friends and other outlets for celebrating the holidays, as they do when they go to college. Our eldest son was engaged just before Daniel's passing, and he was beginning the tough work of navigating the holidays with two families. Daniel liked to be part of all of it, the decoration, the tree, the cards, etc. Each year, we take gifts to our closest neighbors and friends, and Daniel liked to be part of that especially. We cope by understanding that Christmas will never be the holiday that it once was for our family. One of us is missing. We do continue in celebrating the way we always have, in case Daniel would like to look down and see how we are progressing, or to be a part of it, also. My father and my in-laws and others are also welcome, if they wish to come in spirit. We also have James here now, and although we will only have him for a few years before he too is grown and then gone, we must make memories and provide him with a valuable childhood and adolescence with fond Christmas memories and traditions. This year Stephanie decorated the tree, again with Daniel as our angel.(There is a star with his picture on the top of our tree) Adam placed the wreaths everywhere including the barns and the farm gates. Matt has been busy in college, but seemed happy to see the lights. James helped me to make the trip to the neighbors delivering the gifts we send each year. We have added a tradition of providing Christmas to those in a nursing home in the past couple of years. Daniel used to enjoy going to Sam's Club to buy food to deliver to the foodbank before Christmas. We continue many traditions from the Daniel years in the same vein, but without the same enthusiasm. We still do get a couple of gifts for Daniel. We place them in his room, where we have constructed a family room of sorts where we go when we want to see pictures of him, watch his DVDs or play on his computer. The gifts for Daniel will no doubt be played with by the rest of us, as we remember him. I also continue the tradition of writing Daniel a letter I place in his stocking on Christmas Eve, telling him what has happened this year, as if he doesn't really already know, and then I put it in his scrapbook afterward. Christmas will never be the same for those who have lost a child. However, they will find a way to move ahead, move on, and find joy, however small sometimes, in the celebration of Christmas, and the start of a new year.













This is Amy Grant, with her husband Vince Gill singing harmony.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Meaning and Spirit of Christmas

Picture from:    justletmevent.wordpress.com


Picture from    selfexcited.blogspot.com


    We come to Earth as babies, and many of us find a loving mother, often a loving father, grandparents and sometimes even siblings.  Uncles and aunts and cousins round out our families, and many of us are lucky enough to be woven into a basket of loving family as we are babies, toddlers and children. We have more connections to the world than we can count, and this is how it is meant to be.  Of course, this can change. Fathers can leave or die, mothers can return to work, or pass also.  Uncles can move and take cousins with them.  Disasters can take entire families as well.   Most often we enjoy our extended families and don't begin to lose large numbers of our family constellation until we are in our fifties or our sixties, when God prepares us one family member at a time, to begin the process of realizing that we will return to Him, from where we came.
            Please try to remember this holiday season that many people have not had the genuine treasures that we associate with Christmas and the holiday season. I am not talking about presents or material things we have. I am speaking of the real treasures of this life, the love, camaraderie, shared acceptance and joy that can come from spending time together as a family.   Not only do many people not have this as children, but it can be hard to create in one's own family when one cannot recall these moments well in adulthood.
              Some of us lose entire families when circumstances take us from them, and some of us lose family when they pass to God, one by one. In any event, people are often left here on Earth without the connections to others they had when they were younger.  At Christmas, when the hype of happiness, joy, and a glorious special day is all around us, it can be a very difficult day for many people.   Please remember this, and take part of your holiday season and share it with someone who might not have the connections to family or to friends that you do.   Jesus Christ did not send a blessing to all of us on a proxy date of his birth. He sent us blessings year round. The longer we dwell on Earth the harder it can be for us to see sometimes.  And this, is one of the most important things I have learned from Daniel and also from my Dad.   Merry Christmas all.

A Close Call with a Fox

The fox Adam saw is a brighter red, and showed even more teeth


Normally, as we complete our work on the farm, which consists of feeding or moving animals, moving feed, fixing animal housing, mowing or trimming something, we carry handguns on holsters. Sometimes a long gun is impractical when you are moving back and forth and doing things. While wearing a weapon on a belt, one can go a year at a time without having to draw one, and sometimes we feel silly for going to the trouble to strap on the holster when our task in such an idyllic looking place, is a short one. Yesterday, our son Adam was out of town for the day, and returned at dusk. He has a cat which lives in one of the barns that he feeds and places indoors at about dusk or often earlier. Her name is Brielle. Yesterday Adam didn't strap on his weapon as he was still dressed from his day out, and he proceeded to water and feed Brielle. He couldn't find her, and it was getting to be dusk. He looked around and finally located her crouched down in brush. Then he saw why. A large red fox had been stalking our chickens, and Brielle, who for a beautiful cat, is a hunter and defender of the first order, was interfering with his plan. As Adam stood between Brielle and the fox, the fox growled, showed teeth and prepared to attack those he considered in HIS territory. This is when it would have been nice to have a handgun. A fox who challenges a human being in his territory may be rabid or simply too aggressive for his own good and certainly for ours. The standoff continued for a few moments. Just then, as the sky gradually darkened, Adam's maglite blinked off. Of all the times to have a bright light failing ! He couldn't get it to go on again. With that, he shouted, "Brielle, to the barn !" and he threw the mag-lite with all his might at the fox hitting it. Brielle is safe for now in the barn. The fox ran away. The mag-lite is broken. We will need to buy another today. Most importantly, we need to make sure that we are armed each time we perform even the simplest of tasks on the farm. Getting attacked by a fox would necessitate a series of expensive and potentially hazardous rabies prevention shots. This is something we would all like to avoid.   I remember Daniel helping to clear this area where the fox is now, by hand with his brothers, in 2008.  I am relieved that the fox wasn't there then.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Smell of Beer




We are an unusual family in that my husband and I don't drink alcoholic beverages at all. It's not that we have religious ideas that we shouldn't, or health constraints that preclude us from doing so. My husband drank a few drinks in college, and I enjoyed a few glasses of red wine while in college, usually following a harrowing exam. It tended to give me heartburn and I think on occasion, it caused a rare migraine headache. Although we both accept that there are some health benefits to the occasional beer or glass of wine, we just don't drink it, although we might serve some to guests on holidays. Oddly, our kids are the same. Other than a few drinks in college, and at Christmas, they just never got into the habit of drinking much. My kids joked that they could barely afford food in college, let alone drinks. My Dad was an exception to this. He loved an occasional dark ale especially while traveling, or going out with friends for a beer on tap and a slice of pizza.
I had an important business closing going on today, and I hoped my Dad would have been behind the decisions I have been making. In such a difficult economy it's hard to know what decisions to make when so many of our investments have decreased in value over the past few years. Early this morning while I was sleeping, I could smell beer, and I was aware of someone pouring a beer on a table in front of me. Although I didn't see him, I knew it was my Dad in the dream. I believe my Dad was encouraging me, not only at this time of the year before Christmas when I miss him, and I miss Daniel, but in the project I closed upon today. It was as if he was toasting me with a favorite beer. Thanks Dad. I will never tire of hearing from you in whatever manner you or Daniel are able to get messages through !


Dad loved a dark ale, especially some of the British varieties.











This may be a clearer version of the same song visually.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Visit to a Faraway Town









Daniel,

Do you remember the female farm veterinarian who used to come out and see all the farm animals periodically ? You remember the vet that had that amazing vet truck with all the supplies and the meds, and even a frij ? Adam and I were out in Louisa at the hardware store and we saw her. I think she was in a hurry because she didn't stop and chat. It's funny how people you met and knew have become special to me in a way that they might not have been, simply because they met and knew you. I just seem to want all the reminders of your time on Earth that I can get. I miss you so, and wish you were here, especially at this time of year. As you know, I am doing the best I can to go forward, even though sometimes I might not much feel like it. I know you and my Dad and in God's safe hands, and are fine, but I have my selfish flesh suit on, and just wish you were here.
Even though the earthquake in Louisa was at the end of August, the hardware store remains damaged. There are cracks in the tile in their bathroom, cracks in the thick smoky glass in their windows, cracks in the interior painted cinderblock and in their fairly new brick building as well. It's going to take years to repair the damage to this earthquake. The extent of the damage is still amazing to me. We got our letter this week telling us that we can't get an inspection for our damage because we are not in the disaster approved county.
All your animals are well. Your rooster Ross is huge and doing very well. We are home on the farm, and keeping the faith, just as if you and Dad will come for dinner on Christmas Day. Oh, and if you can, please do. We will have a buffet. Please tell my Dad I love him so, and I hope he is still proud of me.





Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Rustic Christmas








When Daniel was here on Earth, even though it was a lot of work, I tried hard to decorate as soon as Thanksgiving was over. It honestly took me quite a bit of time. I put wreaths on the farm gates, some years with red bows, and other years with an old fashioned deeper red bow. We have wrought iron plant holders so that hanging plants can grace the walk up to the house itself, and at Christmas, I hang pots overflowing with holly or other decorated Christmas greenery. We place a creche with all the animals, kings, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, which is carved, and a family heirloom on a table. We place wreaths on our front door and some transitional doors. One year we had a big family tree that we all decorated, and a smaller tree just for Daniel to decorate, and to put lights on. Some years I have actually decorated the barns and the outbuildings. Putting all of it up can be exciting, but taking it all down, and putting it away can be downright depressing.
This year, I am just tired going into the holiday season. I was ill last month and recovery has sapped my energy and desire to run around like a nut. I am therefore looking for a calmer holiday season, with a little truer peace and goodwill toward men, women, and particularly toward mothers ! Still, James is not grown and has not known many Christmases with us, and so we must make it memorable for him. This year, I am doing a rustic Christmas. The tree is up and decorated. The gifts are purchased and wrapped and are conservative this year in response to the economy. There is nothing frivolous, and things are geared toward general preparedness and need. There are tools, emergency car kits, clothing, expensive socks, and gift certificates from favorite stores rather than jewelry. It's also an arts and crafts Christmas rather than a bought one in some ways. It's also a Christmas where we give things to others, as we try to make it, each year. This year, rather than lots of ribbon with wrap, I have used yarn. It is a nice touch and makes a homespun Christmas.
Christmas really isn't and was never about the trappings, the food, the gifts and the credit cards used to buy gifts. It is simply the remembrance of the day of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He, incidentally, never asked us to celebrate his birth in such a fashion. It's simply one of the things we try to do here on Earth in acknowledgement of His birth and of the great gift He gave us. It's not even really celebrated on the correct day.

The following is from Christianhistory.net

More specifically from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2000/dec08.html

"Western Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25 in 336, after Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the empire's favored religion. Eastern churches, however, held on to January 6 as the date for Christ's birth and his baptism. Most easterners eventually adopted December 25, celebrating Christ's birth on the earlier date and his baptism on the latter, but the Armenian church celebrates his birth on January 6. Incidentally, the Western church does celebrate Epiphany on January 6, but as the arrival date of the Magi rather than as the date of Christ's baptism.

Another wrinkle was added in the sixteenth century when Pope Gregory devised a new calendar, which was unevenly adopted. The Eastern Orthodox and some Protestants retained the Julian calendar, which meant they celebrated Christmas 13 days later than their Gregorian counterparts. Most—but not all—of the Christian world now agrees on the Gregorian calendar and the December 25 date."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Humans are simple creatures. We tell ourselves that this date is the date of Christ's birth and some of us hold it sacred. In fact, we should "love one another" as he implored, each day, not just on Easter, on Christmas or on Sundays.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Grimmer, Grimmer, and Grimmer

The leaking recreational vehicle where the Grimmer family lived, docked for $400. a month without cooking or showering facilities, other than a green garden hose for periodic showers.



This is the picture Ramie had taken and placed on facebook. It's unfortunate that her family did not document their living conditions as well. Perhaps pictures of their living conditions would have helped them to obtain help.

Timothy was removed from life support today.


I think I will be sick the next time someone tells me that the United States is the richest country in the world. It has always been a little easier to become wealthy here, if you're lucky, because in good economic times, there have been opportunities to train for something which can become a good job, but this has been dwindling. There are almost no new business start ups and nothing but company and job losses now. However, it has also always been easy to become destitute in the US as well. An acute or chronic illness, a job loss, a natural disaster, the failure of a major house system, such as the septic or well to a home resulting in its being condemned by authorities, or a mental illness issue, such as depression has reduced many a family to complete destitution. Some communities have safety nets and churches that will help, and many locations are too poor to even consider it, even when the people have children. With the number of people in serious need in this economy, more and more people are likely to fall through the cracks.
This week, a 38 year old woman named Rachelle Grimmer, applied for social services in Laredo, Texas. Laredo is pretty strapped just now, and is normally one of the poorest counties in the United States. She was apparently living in a recreational vehicle with her twelve year old daughter Ramie, and her ten year old son Timothy. She had been divorced six years, and had claimed domestic abuse. Her ex-husband's family claimed she had "mental health issues". Neighbors in the Laredo trailer park where the family was docked hotly dispute this. They feel she was appropriately conversant with everyone, and was trying to make and sell things. Mrs. Grimmer was claiming to homeschool but one wonders how this could have been possible when she moved from Montana, Ohio, and then to Texas, with very little money, and possibly not enough to buy schoolbooks. Documentation suggests that Mrs. Grimmer applied for public assistance, food stamps and other types of aid numerous times, but because she could not provide proof of empty bank accounts she did not have, or did not have a contact phone number, or a pay stub demonstrating an abyssmally low salary, she was not given any social service aid. I have to wonder how many people, after they'd sold their car for $400. and found a big crack in the RV they were living in with winter coming, wouldn't have been on the edge of mentally disturbed. There is some indication that Mrs. Grimmer had been begging for food at night's end at local restaurants, before the remaining food was thrown away.
One day this week, Mrs. Grimmer went to Laredo Social Services, and when they indicated they could not help her without additional documentation, she shot her daughter and her son in the head, and then killed herself. Mrs. Grimmer died instantly, but the children hung on until each of them died in Intensive Care Units. Ramie died on December the seventh, and Timothy died today.
I am not ready to toss blame to social services. Social Services can only help people who will work with them to provide and document what they do and do not have. I am bothered that Ramie had a computer that made her capable of posting "May die2 day" during her mother's final visit to social services. I would have sold the computer. I am also bothered about the firearm Mrs. Grimmer owned. I too own a firearm, but honestly, if I needed money, I would sell it, pretty quickly. I might have taken pictures of the squallor (using my or a neighbors cellphone) in which I am the children were living in order to get some aid. Yes, there is always the risk that the children would be taken by social services, but this is a risk I would have taken in order to feed them and house them.
As the mother of a child who died at 12 1/2 without clear cause, I cannot imagine anything on this Earth causing me to shoot, injure or kill any of my children. My heart bleeds for those lost children, and for the mind of that mother which was so horribly confused and twisted at the end of her own life.
I am reminded that sometimes it takes very little help or encouragement to help a human being who is demoralized or depressed. In remembrance of this woman, and of daughter Ramie, and son Timothy, please do something to encourage someone who is feeling dejected today. Life is fragile for many people, and especially for children. You could perhaps bring someone having a hard time a bag of groceries. It could get getting them a grocery store gift certificate. Maybe buying a coat on sale for someone you know who needs one. There is no telling what could have changed this week had someone been able to intervene with one small gift of encouragement for Mrs. Grimmer. Who knows. In time, she could have written the next Harry Potter.
Daniel, I hope that there are plenty of loving souls to welcome these lost ones where they are now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Forced Christmas




It's 2 am, and someone is running the washing machine. I have no idea who it is. From this side of the house when it spins there is just the slightest detectable vibration much milder than the earthquake aftershocks we have been having. Well, we did it. We got the tree up, the decorations on. Wouldn't have it done without the help of the kids. The gifts and cards intended for foreign destinations were sent yesterday. The gifts to neighbors and those who work or do things for us through the year have been given. I sent most of the domestic Christmas cards out today, and there will be only about ten more tomorrow. I still need to place the wreath on the door and do some decoration outside. I keep a bunch of Christmas cards in waiting for those who send me an unanticipated card, and then I can quickly reciprocate. I must admit that I don't feel much like Christmas anymore. Daniel has been gone three years, and the other biological kids are all young adults. J. is sixteen now, and there is only so long one can keep trying to give him the "Perfect Christmas" in order to correct the perceived deficiencies in his early life before we adopted him. Sometimes, it feels as if we have outgrown Christmas. I know this is not true. Christmas has simply changed for us, and we must find ways to help ourselves to find new meaning in Christmas. In a little more time, we need to take a ton of Christmas presents for a friend we have who lives in a nursing home. I think this will help my Christmas spirit a great deal. This, and the music. I hope this Christmas is not a forced one for you. I hope you find meaning, comfort, support and joy in this holiday season. When you do, write me, and tell me how you did it !


Monday, November 28, 2011

Daniel's Favorite Christmas Movie Was/Is "Home Alone"


"Kevin McCallister" from "Home Alone"/ Macaulay Culkin who played him,in the present day.




The film "Home Alone" actually came out in the early nineties, and Daniel was not born until the late middle of that decade, however it quickly became Daniel's favorite Christmas film. For those of you who haven't seen it, or don't remember it well, it's the story of a large Chicago suburban family whose cousins come to visit and the entire family is to make a trip to Europe on a plane Christmas week. Sometimes things in large families go awry, and Kevin is relegated to the third floor of the big house, on the night before they must leave early for the airport. A power outage causes the family to oversleep, and somehow, the family takes off at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, with only seconds to spare, leaving Kevin asleep in the attic. This is the story of how highly intelligent and resourceful Kevin works, eats, plays, worships, all while simaltaneously defending his home from Christmas thieves. Macaulay Culkin is absolutely excellent in the role of Kevin, and this indeed helped to propel him to stardom. The film is the work of filmmaker John Hughes who died suddenly in 2002.
Macaulay Culkin has since grown to be thirty. My kids follow his career, He is quite interested and quite gifted in art himself, and attended art school in Rhode Island. He occasionally buys fine art for his own collection. Our older kids, both being professional artists, hope he buys some of their art work someday. Macaulay has also known sorrow in the past few years. His older sister, Dakota Culkin died just two weeks after Daniel's passing in Los Angeles, following an accidental hit by a car while walking. This time of year is likely bittersweet for him as well.
Daniel loved the "Home Alone" movie. The character Kevin not only resembled our son Matthew at about eight, but Daniel memorized long stretches of the dialogue from the film. When Daniel was only about four, he deemed the entire film where an eight year old defends his home against serial robbers as "entirely plausible". Daniel himself would have been a fine filmmaker. He had an eye for detail, irony, pathos, etc. He watched this film many times, and probably related to how busy a large family can be sometimes, and how easily siblings can hurt each other ibn the course of sibling rivalry, as they grow. If you have a chance to catch it this season, please do.
On this day, the third actual anniversary of Daniel's departure from Earth, we wish all of you well. We also hope that Macaulay and his family have found some peace too, following the passing of Dakota. Everyone, please make this holiday season memorable for all the right reasons, not for the material ones.






This is one of the original trailers to the film. Interestingly, changes were made between the time this trailer was made and the final cut of the film. You will however, get the idea.




Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blackest Friday Yet




Daniel, Since your passing on the day after Thanksgiving, now three years ago, a lot has happened. American jobs continued to be sent overseas. Plants here closed. New jobs became a thing of the past, even for new college graduates. The educational system in the US continues to slip and slide. Many graduates of high school are not what I would consider truly functionally literate, and they admit to not being able to do relatively simple mathematical functions. This certainly makes graduates of our homeschool look very good when they go to college and excel. Typical American students are often ill prepared for job training, even if there were jobs and training available. The community colleges are full, and there are waiting lists at many of the vocational schools and technical colleges. Some schools are trying to anticipate need by training substandard medical or dental assistants or certified nursing assistants. Unfortunately, none of these people are going to be qualified to make judgments. Some university programs are valuable, but many are overpriced monuments to a time which no longer exists, and makes the mistake of programming students with liberal ideas, which frankly haven't worked here.
This week, during "Black Friday" early shopping, a woman used pepper spray to keep other shoppers away from things she wanted. Two men were shot in parking lots over disputes for X-Boxes. People are behaving like animals and sheep. They are doing what the television box tells them, and heading out to "shop til they drop", even in an economy where they cannot afford it, and may actually lose their jobs when Christmas is over, as I think many people will.
We still prepare for Christmas well in advance, and don't attend the sales. It is a solemn day of remembering the birth of Christ, and how grateful I am to God for you, for Dad, for your Dad and for your siblings.
In the coming year I think that it is at least possible that there will be numerous governmental collapses. Europe is in deep trouble as it tries to bail out Greece, then Italy and Portugal. Belgium is not doing much better. Germany and France carry a boat load of debt also. England is not doing well and smart citizens anticipate food shortages. America cannot be far behind.
Most Americans are not using this prep time for potential collapse wisely. There is still a rush to grab STUFF, in lieu of wisdom, support, charity or kindness to one another. Today, the ads say......."Come shopping at Black Saturday !"
We miss you both immensely and remain the people you know and love. Yes, we still love you both wider than the oceans and deeper than the seas.