Friday, January 27, 2017

Have Some Faith





One of the custom made items I noticed for sale in the shop today.


Some years ago now, one of my sons and I took a trip to a distant town which had a number of art shops along its main avenue. I remember that trip as if it were yesterday. My son had been homeschooled and was transitioning through community college before going on to university. He spent a lot of time on that trip talking to artists, welders, blacksmiths, and business people. I didn't know it at the time but he was carefully considering his occupational options before choosing a major in university. I wondered if he might come back and work for one of the many people with whom he had spoken that day. Later that year, my son transferred to a university in order to study sculpture and extended media. At the time, we were concerned for his occupational outlook, but we were also consoled by the fact that the art school itself was quite competitive and because those accepted into the top rated program for sculpture and extended media were even fewer. Someone has to make a living in the arts, I told myself. "Have some faith" were the words which somehow played in my head.

        Years passed quickly and many things happened within our family. We built a new farm, and moved our family to a very rural area. Both of my parents passed. Our youngest son tragically and unexpected passed shortly after my father. Two of our children graduated with honors from a highly rated art school and entered the work world in the middle of a recession. Two of our children battled serious chronic diseases. I often wondered how we would weather all the challenges that seemed to have befallen us. Still, I heard "Have some faith".

     I have been busy lately promoting my third book and first novel. I have also been pinch hitting in caring for my infant grandson while his mother works. The time does not seem to have passed as quickly as it must have. Of course, my most important works on this Earth are not occupational ones, but the five children my husband and I raised and helped to acclimate to the world.



     Today, I returned to that same town I mentioned at the article's beginning. My son has not returned to work for one of the shops there. Today he and his beautiful wife, also an artist, opened their own shop on that same lovely avenue. Every detail within the shop was perfect and it quieted all my private maternal concerns for their starting a speculative venture in an uncertain economy. As I looked down the street, it seemed almost unchanged from our first visit, now thirteen years ago.  I am so proud of all they have accomplished. Their friends came, some of their relatives were there, some of the people who knew them professionally also were present. I wondered if my father and my son who has passed found a way to be there today. The mayor, the newspaper, and an employer of theirs also came. After the festivities, I walked out to their parking lot and entered my car with a solitary tear in my eye. Where this son is concerned, my job is done. My son and his wife are doing things that I never taught him and that I have no idea how to do. I do so hope and pray this business is successful, I thought. Once again, I heard, "Have some faith."


Their business;

   www.raindropsinvirginia.com


 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Grey Metal Casket

           
This is it.



             One of the strangest things about having a child die suddenly is that all at once, there are many questions asked of you. Will you be wanting burial or cremation ? Where are the remains to be buried ? Where is the funeral to be held ? Do you want an open casket or a closed one ?  How much do you want to spend ?  Will you be needing embalming services ?  No one really cares that your child collapsed and died three hours ago, and no one knows why.

                 In the past I have thought of myself as someone whose mind works fairly quickly. As a critical care nurse I have functioned well and thought clearly in any number of pretty horrible emergencies both in and out of hospitals, but nothing can compare to the sudden absence of your child's spirit from his body, before your eyes. Nothing can compare to being told that since there was no "foul play" suspected that any autopsy would have to be at your own expense ***, and nothing can compare to being asked a number of fairly complex final questions when you have absolutely never considered such things where your child is concerned. We actually didn't know of a single funeral home in our area.

               Part of the reason I had difficulty answering such questions is that the questions and the answers were complex. Our farm actually has a family cemetery, and despite the frozen ground, we wondered if it could be used for Daniel's remains now. Secondly, how could someone have an open casket funeral after an autopsy ? Thirdly, why was embalming required by law ?   Somehow we navigated this very difficult time and item by item came up with answers to these mind bending questions. We chose to have the funeral in the county seat of the place in which Daniel and our other children had homeschooled. We thought that more of his friends could attend this way, rather than holding the funeral in Charlottesville, which had been my first leaning. We learned that despite the autopsy, that great care had been taken to allow an open casket funeral afterward. I did not want this, but my husband did, and who was I to argue ? He too had lost his youngest son that day. Also at that time, we chose cremation, just as my parents, grandparents, and aunts had.  And so, we needed to buy a casket, not for him to be buried in, because his remains wouldn't be, but simply for the hours of the viewing and the funeral itself.  Afterward, we could have given it back to the funeral home where it would be refurbished and presumably used again.  We selected a rather heavy metal casket painted a matte gray with shiny silver toned handles.  Inside it was lined with a particularly soft pillow and white soft lining which reminded me of the fabric of the gown and clothing Daniel wore for his christening. The funeral itself was quite beautiful and well attended. It truly was a celebration of Daniel's life with many people ranging in age from babyhood to in their eighties in attendance. Even a cat named Macintosh, that Daniel truly loved, that belonged to a friend, attended the gathering in a carrier.

                   All of the decisions we made we solid reasonable ones, perhaps except for one. Rather than giving the coffin back to the funeral home afterward, we decided, in advance, to keep it. There was a great deal of metal in it and we'd paid what we considered a great deal for it. Daniel was a big believer in recycling and repurposing almost everything, and perhaps this was a hats off to him.  Perhaps our eldest son, who was completing his degree in sculpture at university could use the metal and fashion an incredible sculpture of some kind. He certainly had with other heavy large metal items. The funeral home wanted it off their property as quickly as possible after the funeral.  The day after, we secured it to one of our trucks using multiple bungee cords and covered it with a tarpaulin. As we drove the distance to the farm, periodically the tarp would blow upwards in the wind, and drivers behind us would see that we were toting a coffin. Daniel would have thought this hysterical. I remember being an odd combination of distraught and amused as they passed our truck, looking strangely at us. Why shouldn't I want the casket? I thought. We didn't yet have Daniel's ashes back. I still wasn't sure that the happenings of that week weren't a terrible nightmare.  When we got home, we placed the coffin in one of our outbuildings on its back. I was surprised to see that the pillow and lining were still intact and clean and had not been removed.
              It didn't matter how much we said that Daniel's casket didn't really have anything to do with him and how repurposing it as a sculpture would have pleased him. Our eldest son, who had originally planned to use the metal in a project was struck by lightning while closing up another wooden building with a metal roof here in August of 2011. Although he survived, he had a number of ongoing medical problems which limited his use of the welders and equipment necessary to completely take down the casket to its component parts.
            And so, an empty gray casket sits alone and waits in an empty building here on our farm, and has now for eight years.  It remains as beautiful and as clean as the day in which I first saw it. It has taken eight years for me to be able to tell you this. Perhaps 2017 is also the year in which the casket is set free to become something else other than a symbol of a very sad day indeed.

















***The University of Virginia Medical Center eventually chose to make Daniel's case a teaching one, as no clear structural cause of his passing could ever be demonstrated. Since his cause of death was theoretical, we were never billed for multiple autopsies by different pathology teams. The cause of death was surmised to be a functional cause of death, a supposed heart rhythm disturbance in a heart that appeared healthy otherwise. We learned later that this flaw of heart rhythm does run in our family, and it had to be treated by ablation in other family members.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

As the Obama Presidency Draws to a Close

            
The last eight years have been a good deal harder or us than they have been on him.





       Those of you who have been with us, on this blog from the very beginning, know that the timing of the Obama presidency, at the  very least, has been very difficult for us.

                 First of all, when Barack Obama was running for president, I bought and read his books. I didn't agree with his views and his perspectives and what seemed like socialist leanings to me and so I knew that I would not vote for him. I encouraged the kids and the rest of the family to read these books, which I incidentally bought quite cheaply from half.com.   Daniel, even at 12, was first to read the books and most of the other kids, despite being at the university did too.  The kids also thought that he did not espouse American values, and they could not vote for him. One of my son's had his life threatened by another student at his urban university when he said he might not vote for Obama. Apparently, young people in particular were very pro-Obama.  I was working teaching college at the time, and when my students asked me who I was voting for, I wouldn't tell them. I thought, just as my own professor's had, that I should not exert undue influence of my students. I told them that they should do their own research and make their own decisions. I have regretted that.

                 Of course, in early November, 2008, just after my father's passing, Barack Obama was elected to the presidency.  At the end of November, Daniel died suddenly.   Daniel knew that Barack Obama had been elected, but Daniel was never here on Earth for even one day of his presidency.   As Obama discussed "shovel ready jobs", "leading from behind", trading in your paid off reliable car for a new one with six years of payments, and other nonsense, we felt as if we had fallen into a bizarre episode of Sliders. Someone was doing something strange in the White House while our family processed the totally insensible and unfathomable death of a 12 and a half year old.

                  We were equally confused when Mr. Obama was reelected in 2012.  We didn't know a single person who had voted for him a second time, and yet, there he was again. Four more years.  Four more years of golf trips, broad criticisms of America, having the Muslim Brotherhood to dinner at the White House, and executive order upon executive order, most of which can't really be Constitutional. Obamacare came in and no one really stood against him.  Anyone who did was accused of being a racist.  How would expressing dismay regarding his actions make anyone a racist ?  Mr. Obama is also the child of a mother with Irish ancestry.  Most of us believe that there is only one race, human, and that when the economy goes well for one group of us, it tends to go well for another.  We all must eat. We all must live somewhere, and we all love our children and seek to do what is best for them.

                   Obamacare cost our own family a great deal more money on a monthly basis than health insurance did before. My husband has had no raises since the beginning of his presidency. With cash flow more difficult, there have been no vacations since then. No, not in eight years. (Although we have taken some business trips.) In fact, our expenses have increased while our income has decreased. We are in far worse shape today than we were when he was elected. 

                   And so finally, the Obama presidency draws to a close. It's been a difficult eight years, in part because bizarre edicts and strange actions have occurred on the part of this administration. The world in general is quite different and much less safe.   This November, Daniel will have been gone for eight years, which is already two thirds of the time he was on the Earth in total !  The day of his passing still seems like yesterday.

                  I don't know why God called Daniel home so suddenly as he did.  On dark days, sometimes I have thought that perhaps God is rapturing deserving children, and that Long QT Syndrome (LQT) or Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) or Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) which are the potential alternatives we were given following multiple autopsies,exist so that God can call his best students of Earth home as the enter difficult times.  I still don't have any good answers.  I still live on Earth, do my best, in this broken timeline.

                  Here's hoping, no praying, for a better presidency this time around, and I live in the hope that Mr. Obama is remanded to the golf course for the remainder of his natural life.  So, if God can do whatever he wants, do you think he will send Daniel back to us now ?  I wish he would.