DEATH DOES NOT BECOME HER (a non-linear treatise on grief, tragedy, and horrible happenings).

1. The Waiting Does Not Make Me Stronger.
I was waiting for coffee,
and sat down on one of the chairs by the front entrance to scan Facebook for 90 seconds.

Up to that point, I had been fine.

But I looked at the picture of my little sister's best friend,
holding the hand of one of her best friends,
as the sun set prematurely on her life and ventilators kept her organs going,

and the tears came up I buried my head in my hands as people I didn't know came out of the sunshine and inside for a jolt of caffeine.

2. September 15, 2002.
She was in our wedding.

A day in which our futures were ahead of us. Me and Becca.

And for those younger, even more futures to look ahead to.

There is a picture of her, her sister, and my sister Lanessa, bunched around the big girl bride - my wife - like the little girls they were.

I did not know her again, but as often happens, our lives intersected because of her friendships with people close to me.

3a. Death is Not the End.
Many of my favourite musicians, writers, poets, filmmakers have had strong interests in the idea of Death. Some as passing interests or tertiary commentary; others with ongoing fixations and even obsessions.

Bob Dylan
Lana Del Rey
Sylvia Plath
Dorothy Parker
Nick Cave 
Ingmar Bergman

3b. CU vs. LS.
What to balance the darkness with?

Death as a literary construct or a philosophical conversation or an intellectual pondering is all fine and fascinating-

Charlie Chaplin, although speaking about something else, said it very well:

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

- and that sums up how I feel about death right now. Every night, we pray with our kids and ask God to watch over those who need special watching, and we usually keep an eye on those corners of the world that especially need some love from above - Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, etc. - and we are genuine and sincere and mean what we say when we ask God to please give a little extra love and hope to people in those parts...

...but when it's next to you, hurting those close to you, it's a whole different level of real. The stench of awful, the wretchedness of things happening that are never meant to happen and that make the universe seem like an upside-down play with a twisted final act in a fairy tale where the villain always wins.

4. Denouement.
Of course the easy answer for many Christians is that the story isn't over, the villain isn't winning, and justice will be served in the end.

But for those of us unsure of which act we're in, cosmically, then it's not as (re)assuring. 

That's reality. Not truth necessarily, because reality and truth can be very different things. Reality. Platitudes don't always work for all of us, and having the strength and fortitude to doubt at a certain point can make faith stronger after being assaulted. I would rather be honest with my doubts in the short term and have my path to faith and hope be strong in the long run than rely on the easy answers that flock to every tragic situation.

5. The Grass is Greener.
It sounds bleak when put up next to the innumerable platitudes and well-meaning trivialities passed along in horrific situations.

Everything happens for a reason.
God knows what is best. We just need to trust him.

The problem with cliches and stereotypes and cheap sayings and catchy bumper stickers is that they're usually grounded in some sort of reality that has a lot of truth to it. Problem is,

that there's usually a lot more to think and talk about than having those trite tropes be the final explanation.

6. Keubler-Ross.
The God I believe in can handle these questions.
Can handle doubt.
Can handle anger and rage and impatience.


7. ...you stronger.
My grandparents have both passed away in the last couple years.
I have experienced death close to me,
I suppose.

But what a horrible reach,
what a thoughtless stretch,
to compare types of pain.

To compare the passings of people in the natural order of life;
to mourn and miss those who lived full and long and pass along


someone who was bursting from the earth with buds and blossoms ready to cover the world with beauty;
who never got the chance to finish or even hit stride;
marathon runner in Mile 2.

That is sick and wrong and I'm not okay with it,

I love God and those I love I hold to a high standard -

- to a high standard, including you, God -

- and I reserve the right to rail against and scream and curse and not understand

and that is what you can do with those you love, with those you are closest to:

let it out,

and know that the toughest times always effing change you.

They change you.

(Nietzsche paraphrase coming up)

They either damage, dilute, destroy your closest relationships.

Or change makes you stronger.

The bits of Good to come out of these are infinitesimal, microscopic, but I have to believe they exist.

8. The End of the Innocence.
My experience with Death is so naive.

Most of my siblings have dealt with it in more heartrending ways than me. Car accidents, suicides, drunk drivers. It hurts me to see those I love hurting.

But it is also different to hurt because someone you love is hurting than to hurt over the firsthand loss of someone immediately, directly close to you. The type of loss that they've dealt with. Some of them over and over and over.

My experience with the latter is so limited.

It has terrified me for years. That I have escaped having to deal with tragedy on that scale for so long that, ridiculous though it sounds, I have worried for years that someday it will all catch up in a horrible way and BOOM - I pay the price for not having bad things all spread out over time and get it all at once.

It's ridiculous. But it's an ongoing nightmare.

9. Turk, JD, et al.
There's one episode of Scrubs - the early 00s television comedy about residents at Sacred Heart Hospital - and I remember getting a little choked up years ago afte a particular episode and thinking that someday,

when my dad dies,

I'm probably going to want to watch that episode and it's going to make me really cry then, and maybe feel better.

I don't know. I hope I don't see that episode again for a long time. Maybe forever.

10. Something.
She had a blog, and I've been seeing links posted to different articles and treatises on life she wrote.

What a gift she left. Not of the ephemeral kind; the billions of little memories left to float around the memories of her loved ones for years and years, but the

concrete, real, tangible,

this, THIS is something she made, that she MADE, that she WROTE,

that will be there always now, digitally archived forever. Nothing to be taken away, nothing to be added to. What she wrote is there. Uneditable, inalterable, immutable. There. There for people to grasp ahold of and have a piece of her.

Her, in her words.

Make something, people. Make something, and know it is a gift for those who love you. Leave your gifts somewhere they can be discovered forever.

Like a blog.

11. Thierry.
For years I have been filming family regularly with whatever camera is most accessible at the moment. I call them 22-second video portraits. I simply film a person, usually in closeup, for 22 seconds, doing whatever it is they're doing. I have yet to ever post one of them to any social media networks or share on blog, because the value in it simply comes with time. The passage of time and the changes that are almost impossible to notice when they're happening.

But when time stops, and you no longer have the ability to capture anything else, what you have is what is there. There's no more to be got.

So what is there is a treasure. Sometimes I wonder why I shoot and shoot - I have for almost a decade, and even though I share tiny slices and snippets and glimpses of our family's life to the world, it is a calculated, deliberate, fraction of what I actually capture. Someday those I have loved and who have loved me will have treasure chests of memories, written and filmed, to sift through. 

I see people going through her old blog posts and Instagram feed and life and elevating these little moments of life and thoughts that have now become irreplaceable treasures to those around.

So I will keep writing, and documenting, and filming and shooting and making sure to try and strike that razor balance between simply existing in the moment and capturing those moments for future history.

11b. Be a fern.
Plants pull out carbon dioxide from their surroundings and turn it into glucose, and eventually through the mystic yet understandable process of life-circles, they help feed back life-sustaining oxygen to the world. 

They take what's around them, absorb it, turn it into energy and give back to the world; give back something that lets life continue and keeps the world spinning.

Humans can do that too. Some, even in short times on earth, have figured out how to take hold of toxicity around them and turn it into fuel; giving back love, joy, adventure to the world and helping to keep the world spinning. Even their own has ceased to spin.


There is so much I don't know, and though I am happy to conjecture, I will not pretend to know what I don't know.*

I don't know what the future holds. Tomorrow or next year or 2035.
I don't know what cosmic plans are in store for this world.
I don't know when we will see those we have loved again. 
There are many who are happy to confidently pass along assurances and timelines and interpret God's plans and intentions, and that's fine if that's needed by some.

For me, there is a beauty in the uncertainty. In knowing that we have lives of adventure available to us, that we have minds to explore with and question and hearts that feel pain and hurt and to try and make sense of horrible happenings.

But I think it's okay to not work too hard at making sense of things. Some things are truly senseless. There is no sense to be understood or constructed.

But there are lessons to be learned, lives to be lived, and people to love. I cannot speak for God, I cannot speak for Madison, I can only conjecture that what would help bring joy to their hearts is to see those who loved her filling the world with love. Filling it with love.

And maybe someday,
all of us who knew her only a little will be able to get to know her,

and those who knew her will run alongside again, 

and life will make sense.

Until then,

I will do my best, in honor of her, somebody I only knew second-hand,
to fill my corners of the world with

a vigorous love for people and God and this planet. 

To all who really loved and knew her,
my heart is so sad for you.

But I am also saving a little space for happy, because I have a suspicion we will see her again.

Love to all.



*except sometimes I will when I feel like it :)

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