We made it to the family reunion dinner. In one of our readings Shayna said that our family is royalty. I am very proud of my family of origin. Not only are most of my family members highly educated and professionals, they are good parents, responsible citizens, dedicated students and have a good sense of family history and our humble beginnings in the South during very difficult times for black people.

The dinner went well. Kayla didn’t go. She was hanging out with her cousins. I spent time with my siblings and their wives. It was actually OK. It was a four hour dinner with tons and tons of meat, held at a Brazilian steakhouse. The other side of my family is the one related to Thomas Jefferson, but my mother’s family is no less interesting even if not as high profile. Our family historian gave a 10 minute presentation.

I sat with my 92 year old aunt for a while. She is one amazing woman, still strong of mind. Too strong, in fact as she refuses to move out of her home. She still insists on attending every event. She made an apple cobbler for the reunion. I haven’t seen her in about a year. She is really slowing down. She jokingly talks about how she used to ask God for big legs. Now, due to swelling, she has them. She still has her sense or humor. She calls herself Tim Conway because her shuffled walk is exactly like the old man he played on the Carol Burnett show. She tells me “Brian, don’t get old.”, the exact advice Tywana’s mother always gives me. Little do they know I have no intention of getting old. I have no desire to get old.

They’re planning next year’s reunion now. Looks like it will be in Philelphia. Everyone is talking like next year is a given, the word twenty-seventeen rolling so easily off of their tongues as they just all know they’re going to be here on Earth, there in Philadelphia.

Maybe…

It’s a question I ask myself. Is there a bottom to this well of tears? If there is, I haven’t found it yet. Today is the day we head up to the family reunion. Kayla had to work last night, so we missed the opening ceremonies. I rise early so that I can get my five miles in. I am dreading this day. It will be the first time I have been around extended family since Shayna’s life celebration. I have absolutely no idea how this is going to go and not much desire to find out.

I put on some particularly evocative music. My thinking is this. Maybe if I cry enough this morning I can get through my allotment of tears for the day. I finish my five mile walk. It’s about 1000% humidity. My shirt has two dry spots on it, one on either side right at the very bottom. The rest is saturated with tears and sweat. It’s good to get that out.

I shower and get ready to take the dogs to the kennel. As I am driving back home, down the road we took with the ambulance with Shayna on the day she passed, headed the other way towards the hospital is an ambulance, lights on, siren going. I wonder who is in it. I wonder what her fate will be. Then I am immediately taken back, back to that day. I remember being in the police car behind the ambulance, on this very spot of road. Here come the tears again. My life will forever be separated into the years before that time and the years after it. Oh, how I wish I could go back. Or go forward. Anywhere but here.

So, here I sit. I hear Tywana and Kayla stirring upstairs. I’ve done my five miles, had my meditation for peace and to try to raise my consciousness, taken the dogs to the kennel and done my bit on Facebook. We will hit the road soon….

I feel like Neo after he’s seen beyond the Matrix, Alice after she’s fallen down the rabbit hole.  Up is down, down is up.  This life is the dream. The “next life” is reality.  Death is to be celebrated. Birth is entry into the school of hard knocks.  The fallen are The Risen.

The book I’m currently reading is called The Risen and I really like that term for those we think of as dead.  Just within the past several days I have two friends whose mothers have made the transition, one friend whose good friend has and another friend whose dog has.  A friend I met on Facebook called me earlier this week.  A friend of his found her 17 year old healthy son in his bed Sunday morning.  His spirit had left his body.  Death is all around me now and it’s only going to become more so as in just over a week Tywana and I start leaving a grief group. 

During the DNC convention, there were mothers of children who were killed in gun violence, fathers of soldiers killed in war, families of cops killed in the line of duty.  Commonly they refer to their loved one as the fallen. It makes sense. When we “die” our body falls. But, if you’ve ever looked at a loved one in a casket, you might have had the same feeling I had when I saw my grandmother in that casket when I was 13 years old.  I looked at her and I thought “That’s not her.  Mom is gone.  It hit me immediately that body had just been a shell- a house she carried with her for her journey here and her spirit had moved out.” When the body falls, it’s easy to think of our loved ones as fallen because we identify them with their bodies. After all they hug us with those bodies. They kiss us with those bodies. We look into their souls through those eyes.  But, they are not their bodies any more than you are your body. When they “die”, they take that body off, like an old worn out coat.  They slip out of it and they do not fall, they rise.  They are not the fallen, they are The Risen. 

And yet we mourn.  We miss their physical presence. We weep.  We miss the times we were supposed to have with them. We scream. We’re angry at the injustice of what’s been taken from us. But, it’s not been taken from them. They are Risen, yet, they are still with us. They are still cheering us on. And one day, sooner than we think, we will Rise to be with them.

Words are funny things. I’ve always had a fascination with language, the way words sound, the origins of sayings- all that stuff. Since Shayna passed I’ve become particularly sensitive to words. Words like death,  when it comes to human beings, are all wrong for the way I view life now. Life never ends, therefore we do not die. We transition, graduate, pass on, but we do not die.  It’s not a word I use much anymore. If I do it’s out of force of habit or to make things less awkward for others.

A couple of days ago my cousin sent a message to me about the upcoming family reunion. She asked if we are coming.  “Yes. We’ll be there.” I said. She said “We’re looking forward to seeing you.”.  Hmmm… I thought.  How do I respond to that? I’ve never been much for platitudes, particularly if I don’t mean them.  The natural response is “I’m looking forward to seeing you, too.” Had we been face-to-face, I’m sure I would have said that just to end any awkward silence. The truth though Is I’m not looking forward to to the reunion. I don’t look forward to too much these days. It has nothing to do with her personally, but I’m not looking forward to this weekend.

Family events are really tough now. I think about Shayna all the time. Being around family, my parents, my brothers and sister, my brothers’ kids, all remind me that Shayna is not here with us- as she was supposed to be.  Seeing other people’s kids, especially those Shayna’s age, going on with their lives still hurts.  I know Shayna’s not missing anything. I know Shayna’s moved on and is in a better place.  My pain is not for Shayna. My pain is for me. It’s what I’m missing, and that’s her.  So, I’ll go to the family reunion for Tywana and for Kayla, but it won’t be easy for me.  

They say there is a black sheep in every family.  If you think you don’t have one in your family, you’re probably it.  I am definitely the black sheep in my family.  In my immediate family I’ve always been the “sensitive” one. It’s something I was ashamed of when I was young. Sensitive wasn’t used as a compliment. It meant I was difficult to manage, difficult to understand. Over the years I’ve learned to embrace and appreciate the differences I have. At one time I thought I was born into the wrong family.  Nope. I was supposed to have these struggles. I am the way I was supposed to be and I’m not trying to change to please anyone.  Shortly after Shayna passed my family came in for the weekend. It was still very raw for me.  I was crying most of the time. They had been here to support me for several days immediately after she passed and we shed a lot of tears and a lot of emotions during that time. But, this was later and everybody was back in their assigned roles.  I was actually out for a walk when they arrived and they got here sooner than I expected. I wasn’t quite ready, so I went around back and sat for a while to gather myself and have a cry before coming in and putting on my face.  We spent several hours together and I had to leave a few times to let out a few tears.  No one knew. After they left one of them remarked how it had been a good visit because no one had cried. Uh, not really.

Even in my extended family I can’t think of anyone like me.  Maybe they’re out there but they hide it. I don’t know.  What I do know is I can’t keep things inside.  I put everything I feel into this blog. I know some people are shocked by what they read, but that’s not my concern. The only thing I filter is to respect other people’s privacy.  So, when I go to the family reunion, I know there will be people there who have read this and know what I’m feeling. It’ll be awkward, but I’ll get through it.

The other thing about “looking forward” is I’ve learned, and it’s been burned into me in way I can never forget- even for a moment, that we have no clue what the future holds.  This can be liberating or it can be terrifying. I choose to let it liberate me.  I have a family member who is so worried about an event scheduled for something like two years in the future that it’s causing all kinds of anxiety in his life right now.  Now I know this is perfectly normal. It’s how we operate. It’s how I operated most of my life  The thing is we have no clue about whether we’re even going to be here in two years (or anyone else). So, why spend today worrying about something that might not even happen? There is a balance between being reckless and trying to live tomorrow today.  We have to plan for the future as if it’s going to arrive, because it just might.  It probably will.  However, worrying about it won’t change it one way or the other. It just assures you that you’ll be miserable today.  It’s easier said than done, but it’s actually pretty easy for me right now. 

“It’s just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You’d give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will-
Learn to be still”

Today is the day that Tywana and Kayla come back from their mini-vacation Tywana’s sister’s house. I’ve been alone for the last three days and it’s been rough.  I’ve always liked solitude, but now too much time to think is not always the best thing. 

Last week, when I was talking to the girl who was considering suicide, I was racking my brain to come up with reasons to give her to stay around.  Meanwhile in the back of my mind, I’m thinking “If you’re going, take me with you.”  I’m reading a book right now that starts off with the foreword that pretty much says “We don’t advocate suicide.”  The biggest reason our society tries to ignore death is it makes us uncomfortable, we’re frightened of it. On the flip side, if you know what awaits you, you might go rushing home.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a tribe that truly lives as if the after life is a reality.  Suicide is extremely common among them because they consider death to be just like moving from one house to another.

When you go on vacation, there comes a time that no matter how great the vacation is, you’re just ready to go home.  Vacation is relaxing and exciting, but you start to miss home where you can truly be comfortable again.  

As I was contemplating all of this this morning, I was inspired to play the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” album. The first cut is “Get Over It” which kicked me right in the butt. The fourth is Learn to Be Still”.  OK. Got it.  Message received.

Today is Tywana’s birthday. She and Kayla went to Pennsylvania to visit her sister and I’ve been here with just the dogs for a day and will be for the next two days.  Just sitting around, doing nothing and killing time.

Yesterday, after they left I spent the day relaxing. I sat on the deck and read for a while. Cooking for one has never been a lot of fun, so I had leftovers for lunch and dinner.  I binged on some Netflix, watched a movie and turned in early.

Today I’m up before the sun. It’s going to be hot, hot, hot, so I need to get my walk in before it gets too hot. I decide to take an easy walk, but I add an extra mile knowing I won’t be out and about too much today.  I decide to go to Jungle Jim’s to kill some time and I even download Pokemon Go, to see what that’s all about.  

Since Shayna’s passing, I’ve been working diligently on changing my perspective and the shift is happening. As that shift happens the things of this world become less interesting though.  I feel like my best days are behind me and I’m not looking forward to the ones stretching out in front of me. There was a time when I had so much to do, I felt I had to be “productive” all the time.  When we had the girls here, there was always something to do for them or with them, a game to go to, a swim meet to watch, something. Now, there’s only work (the business) and I’m sick of working on that all the time, especially since it seems nothing I do there really pays off.  Working for living isn’t my idea of what I’m here for.  I’m feeling frustrated and stuck and ready for the next thing.

The last four days I have watched as much of the RNC as I could stomach.  I had to turn some of it off. Now before I get started on the RNC in particular, I will stipulate this in general.  Politicians lie. They exaggerate. They incite fear.  They tell you how bad things are and then they tell you how they’re going to solve them. This is a classic sales tactic taught to me when I worked for IBM. It’s been used by politicians and priests for thousands of years.  

The RNC convention was classic in that sense.  It was a display of fear mongering (crime is bad and getting worse, the economy is collapsing, the world is on fire, the liberals want to take God away from you), divisiveness (a pastor in the benediction literally said Hillary Clinton and the liberals are the “enemy”) and lies (there were too many in Trump’s hour plus acceptance speech to even keep count of).  There were calls for Hillary Clinton to be jailed and one of Trump’s staffers even said she should be executed.  The truth seems to be the first casualty when people are trying to stoke fear.

It all comes down to that base emotion of fear. It’s how the media manipulates us.  It’s what the news outlets use to keep us glued to our TVs (everything is BREAKING NEWS) and everything’s going to kill us.  ISIS is a threat to our very existence even though your chances of being killed by lightning are several times greater than being killed by a terrorist.  ZIka is coming for us. Ebola is coming for us- oh wait, that was last year.

The DNC convention is next week. There will be a steady dose of fear there too. I hope maybe less lies, but I’m not holding my breath. They will tell us Donald Trump is an existential threat to our country. 

The opposite emotion of fear is love. Some say there are only two base emotions and all others stem from those. Those two emotions are love and fear.  One of my mentors has encourage us on the side of love to choose love to fight the fear and that is what I am going to endeavor to do.  The hashtag he has used is #makeAmericakindagain.  I like that. It’s easy to get into fighting fire with fire- fight lies with more lies. Fight hate with hate,  Fight fear with more fear.  That’s the natural, instinctive reaction.  I, for one, am going to try to resist it. We’ll see how I do.

I have to say I’m glad the Fear Fest is over.  I could not take even one more day. That was a very ugly display of humans when they’re whipped into a frenzy and pointed at an enemy. And the enemy isn’t ISIS- it’s Hillary Clinton and the liberals- their own countrymen who were blamed for every ill in the world over the last couple of decades.  ::: shudder:::::

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about suicide.  I have also posted on our Helping Parents Heal page an article about suicide prevention by Dr. Mark Pitstick (When You Are Considering Suicide).  Sadly, in the last two weeks I have had contact with three people on Facebook who were considering suicide.  This article has been very helpful as I’ve talked with them. One made an attempt and was saved by quick action by people on Facebook who located someone who knew here and got the police there. Another, after a few of us encouraged her, checked into a mental health facility and contacted me after she got out to let me know she is doing better. The third I contacted just yesterday after a post on Facebook set off alarm bells. I won’t reveal who she is, but she is a young girl with a young daughter who has found herself in a very tough situation that she can’t see getting better. We talked for quite a while.  I hope I was able to help.

As I was talking to her I could identify with everything she was saying. She just wanted a nice easy life. She doesn’t know how she can go on without her husband who passed three years ago. The good new is she knows life goes on even after we shed this body, but she’ so weary of this body, she just wants to hit the reset button. I was trying to talk her into staying around, but I could relate to everything she was saying and I had to acknowledge that.

Sometimes we feel we are alone. The way things are set up here, we feel like we are individuals disconnected from everyone and everything around us. The truth is we are way more connected than we think. She and I had never interacted before. She’s been on my friends list for quite a while. She had no idea I would take an interest in her welfare, but I did.  She feels alone, but as I talked to her I found out she has at least two people who are dependent on her.  I reminded her that her husband is right there with her, but I know when you can’t hear from or see or touch that person those words can ring hollow. As I talked to her I imagined Shayna sitting right here next to me and I truly believe she is, even though I can’t feel her with my physical senses.

To the young lady, if you’re reading this, I hope you decided to try to make it one more day for those loved ones you told me you have. I hope that you can find the strength to go on and fill the plan for you for this incarnation. You will see your husband again. And, you have a lot to live for in this life. It will get better.

I think every generation since about the first has thought “This is it. Things are so bad they can’t get much worse.”  When you throw religion into that mix and the last times stuff predicted by Paul (over 2,000 years ago), people have been moaning about the state of the world for a very long time and looking for the end.

In the meantime, the world, by just about any objective measure, has gotten better.  Abject poverty is decreasing. Food is becoming more plentiful.  Less people are dying in wars.  Slavery is no longer considered normal. Countries don’t routinely invade or “discover” other countries.  Health is better.  Children are considered people. Women are considered people.  People are living longer.  Education is on the rise. Yet, we feel something is missing.  

What has happened over the last several hundred years is people have, by and large, forgotten who we are, why we are here and where we came from.  In short, we have become disconnected from our Source and feel adrift.  Science promised us all the answers and science has delivered in a big way on improving our (material) lives. Science has been so successful in that regard that many of us have come to worship science which is based on materialism.  Much of the improvement in the world is due to science.  But, as we have become increasing reliant on a materialistic worldview, we have lost something vital to being a human being.

In the last couple of hundreds years there has been a small but steadily growing movement of people who while not going back to the blind faith of religion (which taught us who we are and where we came from) have realized the limitations of science and have been examining all of the evidence around us from both an analytical view and an introspective view.  They have begun assimilating knowledge from various fields which were silos- philosophy, physics, religion, parapsychology, Near Death Studies, contacts with mediums and begun to paint a more complete portrait of what our reality truly is and who we are.  Many of these people believe we are on the cusp of a quantum leap forward in human knowledge which could lead to a fundamental shift in human life and capabilities.

At times the turmoil in the world seems overwhelming and if we focus too much on the small day-to-day details we can be dragged into despair. There is a sense of weariness around the country at this moment as we going through a particularly contentious election cycle, have been struck by ISIS inspired terrorists on the homeland, have had police officers targeted for assassination and we see images of people being killed by the police in questionable, at best, circumstances.  Some say as the light here grows, as more of us raise our consciousness, the souls who don’t want that to happen will push back and things might get worse for a time.  And, as they say “only the good die young.”  I’ve been missing leadership like MLK, musicians like Michael Jackson and Prince, people who could help us navigate these trying times. Why are they gone?   

Here’s where it gets crazy.  The saying “only the good die young” may have some merit. There are souls that come here for a brief season to work here, maybe to help others and go back home, but another reason they leave early is they are working from the other side.  Michael Jackson is only a couple of years older than I am. i watched him grow up. I could identify with a kid from Gary, IN, a little black kid.  I love his music, his passion for children, his care for the Earth and his sense of global community. I was heartbroken when he died so young.  There is a researcher working on ways to communicate with those who have passed on who is working with a team on the other side.  He kept some of the names secret for a long time. He recently revealed that Michael Jackson is one of those on the other side working on this project. Could it be true? 

I’ve been told that the souls, or at least some of the souls, here on Earth now have come here specifically for this time- perhaps that’s true of all times. I don’t know if I’m fully committed to the idea this shift is happening and I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I hope to do my part to make it happen and I believe that Shayna is doing her part from where she is.