Over the last several days, Colin Kaepernick has been in the news for refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.  This blog is about my journey after Shayna’s passing and I’ve pretty much kept it non-political, but this will tie in if you stick with me.

I personally support Colin Kaepernick’s decision. Whether I agree with his particular cause (and I do), I support anyone who stands up (or sits down in this case) for his personal truth.  As long as that protest is done in a non-violent way, I’m all for it. There is no “appropriate time or place” to protest.  Protest, to be effective, must be disruptive. Black Lives Matters people have tried marching, but as long as you get a permit and march where and when they tell you to, no one pays attention. Shut down traffic and people will listen.  I’m not advocating violence, but MLK recognized that rioting is the language of the unheard. And his protests were disruptive.  If you don’t listen to people long enough, they will raise their figurative  collective voice until you do. Colin Kaepernick had a 10 month social media campaign before anyone paid attention to his simple, non-violent, silent protest.

We have always taught our girls to speak their truth. Shayna was great at educating her friends about the black experience.  Kayla is still doing it.  It’s part of our duty, part of the assignment we signed up for when we agreed to be a black family in America.  We cannot and will not stay silent.  I have over 1,200 “friends” on Facebook. Pretty much every day I offend a portion of them.  Sometimes it’s the conservatives. Sometimes it’s the liberals. Sometimes it’s the atheists. Very often it’s the Christians.  I told people I don’t sing the national anthem or say the pledge of allegiance. I will stand for them, but I don’t participate.  I don’t celebrate the bloody war that started our country, the rich white, slave-owning men who said they were doing it for “freedom”.  They weren’t being murdered. Their wives weren’t being raped. They weren’t religiously persecuted.  Their land wasn’t being taken. They weren’t enslaved.   They threw someone else’s tea into Boston Harbor and started a war basically because they didn’t like paying taxes.  The national anthem celebrates war, and the third verse (which thankfully no one knows) celebrates slavery.  I am not singing that song.  Some say this means I’m not a patriot. That is not true. I love this country, but I won’t whitewash its history and I will continue to goad it into living up to its ideals. I am a patriot. I’m just not a nationalist.

Then there is the pledge of allegiance. It’s fine. Say it all you want. I’ll go with Jesus on this one. Jesus is my example and He says to let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Do not swear on anything. I do not swear. I do not pledge allegiance to anyone or anything other than to God/Humanity, to Tywana, to Kayla and to Shayna. This is the only thing I will swear to. I will do the most good I can for the most people I can for as long as I am here.  But, I’m not pledging my loyalty to any particular country. 

Yesterday, I let people know I don’t sing “bloody Jesus” songs either. What I mean by “bloody Jesus” songs is songs that celebrate the murder of Jesus. I do not celebrate the cross, which is an instrument of execution/murder any more than I would celebrate an electric chair. The image of Jesus covered in blood, or worse yet, me covered in His blood has always creeped me out.  We used to sing a song that was literally about being “washed in the blood”.  As a very sensitive, literal and visual kids, the image of me standing in front of God sitting on a throne- filthy me, worthless me, disgusting me, only sneaking past God into Heaven because I was drenched in blood. Well, let’s just say that’s not a pleasant image for me.   Songs like “Washed In The Blood” conjure up images that have haunted me since youth.  I won’t sing them and I won’t attend a church that does.

The thing that has fascinated me over these past days is how one man’s personal truth and commitment to it can just absolutely piss off another man.  I posted a video of Mayim Bialik (many of you know her as Blossom from her childhood show or Amy on Big Bang Theory). She was speaking her truth of how she can be a woman of faith and a scientist at the same time. Two of my atheist friends felt the need to chime in and criticize her for basically saying nothing and for what they see as logical inconsistencies.  One accused her of simply pandering to try to maintain the widest possible audience.  Both jumped all over me and anyone else who said her video resonated with us.  Why they felt the need to do that I’m not sure about. It seems they are insecure in their “atheism”. Too bad. 

Then, last night, a guy had to send a personal message to me telling me he had lost respect for me and decided to unfriend me over the comment I made about not singing hymns about Jesus.  Well, first I didn’t say I didn’t say that, I said “bloody Jesus” songs and second, why do you feel the need to tell me?  He didn’t ask why I made the comment.  He didn’t ask why I refuse to sing certain songs.  He took it upon himself to be personally offended and to unfriend me and tell me about it.  Maybe he thinks I’m trying to maintain a certain number of Facebook friends. Maybe he thinks I’m running some sort of business and it’s like losing a customer.   don’t get paid for what I do.  And, if he had asked, I would have been more than happy to explain my point of view and give him the respect of saying he is entitled to his.  But, he didn’t ask. So ‘bye Felicia.

Jesus is my role model. It’s amazing how some see Him as this happy go lucky, never offend anyone kinda guy. If that were true, He wouldn’t have been murdered. Jesus spoke His truth with love and compasion, but He spoke His truth to anyone willing to listen.   And to anyone not willing to listen, He said ‘bye Felicia.

In Matthew 7 He said:  “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

And in Matthew 10 He said: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”

2016 has been a rough year in terms of celebrity losses. Today, we lost another great one, Gene Wilder. I grew up watching his comic genius in movies like Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, etc.  And, there is his role as Willy Wonka which no one will ever come close to topping.  Gene Wilder was 83 years old. For most of us in our 50s and 60s, we were saying “What?  Gene Wilder was 83?”  We forget we haven’t seen him in a couple of decades and, for some reason, we think people stop aging when they are out of our sight.  Nope.  He made Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein 42 years ago and he was no baby even then. 

We mourn the loss of childhood celebrities and rightfully so. It is a loss for us.  Even though I haven’t seen Gene Wilder in over a decade, something about his passing hits home for me. But, while I mourn for us left behind, I am happy for Gene.  He is Home. Today, he is free.  Hopefully, he’s with Gilda Radner. I don’t know how that works, the marriage thing in Heaven. We’re told we can continue relationships we had on Earth. When Jesus was asked about it, He gave an answer that’s never been satisfying to me.  “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”  But I’m just going to trust it all works out.

We have found out that Gene Wilder was dealing with Alzheimer’s the last several years.  Having lost one in-law to Alzheimer’s and seeing another’s personality being stolen by dementia, I know how devastating that disease can be on families.  From their reports, he wanted to keep his Alzheimer’s quiet so his fans could enjoy the smiles his movies brought right up until the very end without worrying about how might be suffering while they were watching.  He went surrounded by family that he still recognized and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Sounds like cause for a celebration to me.

Thanks for all you did while you were here, Gene Wilder.  You continue to bring laughs and smiles to us all.  Enjoy your well deserved reward.

It’s Saturday. Kayla has been back at college for a week now.  Tywana and are are settling into the new normal. I remember a medium, about a year ago, telling me that I would get used to Shayna being gone.  I’m almost there.  I don’t look for her anymore. But, while I might get used to it, I will never like it.  It’s hard.

It seems nothing is going right, right now.  The old car needed $1,700 worth of work.  The kitchen faucet needs to be replaced. The refrigerator has just died.  Sales for Treasured Locks are down in spite of me spending thousands on advertising and new products. Two distant cousins passed within 24 hours of each other, a 20 year old and a 16 year old.  I’m just sick of this place.  Nothing I put any effort into turns out the way I planned it.  I’m ready for a reset.

Tywana has invited neighbors over for a dinner party tonight. We love to entertain, but we don’t typically do it spontaneously because we put a lot into it. She came back from a night of wine tasting with her friends and told me they had planned an impromptu party for Saturday.  I just do not have the energy for this, so I tell her.  “OK, but it’s on you.” I can’t recall ever feeling this way, but after my walk today I’m tired in the middle of the day. We go out and run some errands. People are supposed to show up around 5:30. At 5:00 she asks if I have any beer for the guests.  Nope. I hadn’t even thought about it. We have some beer in the basement. That’ll have to do.  Normally, we’d have a varitety. Tonight, it’s Shock Top or nothing.   It was on sale at Meijer’s so I picked up a couple of 12 packs.

The neighbors show up.  We’ve made crock pot jerk chicken. It was easy and not a lot of thought.  The neighbors bring the sides. We’re supposed to only be here for an hour or so, then head over to the social at the swim club.  Guess what happens?  Yep. Six hours later, the last guest leaves. it’s a good thing we found that beer and had a few extra bottles of wine on hand.  We have great friends.  It’s always good seeing them, even when I’m feeling like this.  

Maybe I’ll get a second wind.

Today I feel like I just need a break. A friend saw Kubo and The Two Strings a couple of days ago and recommended it.  I know absolutely nothing about it, but on a whim, I ask Tywana if she wants to go see a matinee this afternoon. So, off we go.

We get to the theater and there are exactly two other people there when the movie is about to start. I love seeing movies where I know as little as possible about them, it makes the adventure all the more intriguing.  The movie starts and I am immediately taken by the animation. The story begins with our hero in trouble.  

Kubo and the Two Strings is a classic Joseph Campbell hero’s journey.  I hadn’t heard of this until a couple of months ago at church where the concept was introduced during a sermon. Once I knew the template I realized you could overlay it on just about every movie or television show ever made.  In short,  hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I won’t ruin the story of Kubo anymore than I already have, but as I was reflecting on the movie I realized the reason we are so drawn to this narrative is is the story of each of us. We are on that journey, we are far from home, facing perils, testing ourselves, looking for and receiving supernatural aid along the way, and one day we will return home, victorious after having completed our quest.

This is something I have to remind myself of quite often.  The thing that has been added to our quest though is we have forgotten who we are. We can’t even remember home.  I saw a meme yesterday that read “The gods conceal from men the happiness of death, that they may endure life.”  It was one of those “Ah-ha” moments for moments for me.  People often ask: “If reincarnation is true, why can’t we remember our past lives?  If we were pre-existent, why can’t we recall life before we arrived here?”  The answer is simple.  If we could remember how great it is to be home, when the going got tough here, it’d be way too tempting to bail.  I know when I’m having a bad dream, I can usually just wake myself out of it, knowing that when I leave the dream I’ll be safe back in my bed.  

So, for today, it’s time to lace up the boots and continue on the quest.  I don’t know what today or tomorrow will bring, but I know that ultimately I’ll return Home, victorious.

Oh, one little synchronicity. Just this past week I bought two versions of “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps” one by Carlos Santana, Yoyo Ma and India.Arie and one by Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Prince.  Then, during the closing credits of Kubo and Two Strings they played… While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Time flies.  Time has always been my enemy. First, it couldn’t go fast enough. Then I wanted to freeze it.  Now, it can’t go fast enough again. They tell me time is an illusion. Damn, if it is, it’s the most powerful illusion ever.

School is starting up.  Summer is over. Normally, I’m not a fan of fall, because fall portends winter.  But, this fall isn’t bad. Today, Facebook shows me a memory of Shayna’s first day of high school.  How can something that seems so long ago also seem like it was just a few days ago?  How can so much have changed in just two years? People are posting pictures of their kids. First day of high school, first day of senior year, first day of college.  I know all the feels.  I’ve had them all.  I’m happy for all of y’all. Enjoy these days.  Enjoy each and every one of them. I know you want to freeze them to keep them with you.  But, one by one, the days slip away.  No matter what we do, we cannot escape the illusion of time.

I’m on the other side of that now. I don’t want to freeze time anymore. For me, the days can’t go by fast enough.  I’m looking forward to a particular day like a child looks forward to Christmas, like a high school senior looks forward to graduation, like a bride looks forward to her wedding day. I don’t know how far off it is, but I do know it’s not forever and every day it’s one day closer. Every day between now and then is just  a day to get through, a means to an end.  At night when I close my eyes, a blessing is that sleep comes over me like turning off a light switch.  But, before I go, I throw up a little prayer of gratitude to having ticked one more day off of the calendar,  and that I have one day less to wait.

The title is cliche’.  It’s all I got today. I wake up this morning to just another “normal”day.  I get my gear on to go for my run/walk.  I’m up with the sun (technically before sunrise), but it’s hot already 77º and humid. I check Facebook and see a cryptic post asking for prayers for my cousin.  I text my sister, who is the loop more than I am, and I find out his son has been killed in a single car accident about 30 minutes from where I live.  She says it’s been a bad week. I ask her what else is going on.  Another cousin of ours (a fairly distant cousin by genealogy, but close by geography and friendship) has three grandchildren in the hospital.  Her granddaughter has recently been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, her grandson was in a car accident and his brother had a seizure while visiting him.  We hope everyone will be OK.

These are cousins that I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly how they are related. They are Englishes, my mother’s side of the family.  Everybody knows Shane.  He’s a big presence at all of the reunions. The boy who passed  is his son Shane- just 20 years old.  I head out for my walk and I wonder if losing Shayna has made me more compassionate or hardened me. It’s hard to say.  I now know what it feels like to have your child with you one minute and gone the next.  As I’m walking/running I get my answer.  Even though I barely have met Shane and have never met his son, I feel their pain.  I watched a video Shane made as he drove to the scene of the accident and I could feel his pain. As I walk, I try to energetically take some of it away.  I recall being at the reunion and seeing Shane and his son.  I remember people talking about “next year in Philadelphia” and me, in my morose way, thinking “Not all of us will be here.”  But, I was thinking of the older people. Even after Shayna’s passing, I don’t expect other people to lose children.

As I’m finishing up my walk, coming into the last ½ mile, I get a text from my sister.  I check the text.  My cousin’s granddaughter has just passed.  She’s just a teenager. I’m not sure of her exact age, but somewhere around the age of Shayna.  As far as I know she was just diagnosed with a rare and dangerous blood condition. I get back to the house and I text my sister.  And now I sit here just stunned.  That buzzing feeling I had after Shayna passed is back.  

The family reunion was tough for me. Being around all the shiny happy people with their kids and grandkids and having my shattered family missing Shayna.  I did more than a little feeling sorry for myself.  But, tragedy gets us all.  It’s just a matter of time. 

Two cousins, less than 24 hours apart, each less than 20 years old and they have transitioned with little to no warning.  I ache for all of the ache I know is coming to our family, to the parents, to the grandparents. 

Hold  your kids tight. Tell them you love them, every single day. When they walk out the door, do not assume they will walk back in. When they go to bed, do not assume they will get up in the morning.

The last few days I have read a few things about the afterlife that have reminded me that our departed or Risen, as I am fond of saying now, loved ones have not departed at all.  They have simply slipped into another room.  Or, even more accurately, they’re still in the room, but simply invisible to us. They have shifted to a different frequency that most of us cannot tune into.  Mediums are the exception to this rule. They can tune into those frequencies.

In the last few days, I have “lost” three items.  I lost a cell phone holder for my car, the sunglasses I use when I walk every morning, and I lost my hammer.  I looked for the cell phone holder for my car for two days.  I looked for my sunglasses for three days.  And I looked for the hammer a couple of times over the course of a couple of days.  

I looked for my hammer in my toolbox. It’s a big toolbox, so I took a bunch of stuff out.  It had to be there.  I looked around my toolbox.  Maybe I got lazy and sat it down on the floor around the toolbox.  No luck. I am going to have to buy another hammer. It’s gone. I know it’s in the house, but I cannot find it.  My sunglasses I looked for in the usual places.  Sometimes I leave them on the kitchen table. Sometimes I lay them on my messy desk in my office. Sometimes I leave them on the ottoman in front of the couch. For three days I had to wear other sunglasses because I could not find them.  The cell phone holder I knew was in my office. It had to be. It’s in a box. I’ve never used it. I looked and looked in my office, on my desk, on the shelf where I collect the gear I get for free to review.  I could not find it.

Then one by one, the things started showing up.  I had asked Tywana about the hammer, but I decided to ask her again while our employee was here working in the basement.  Lucky I did.  Lexi spoke up and said, “I saw the hammer, it’s on the shelf.”  I went into the back room and there sat the hammer, on the shelf, not ten feet from the toolbox where it was supposed to be and where I had looked more than once.  Then I went into my office and, when I wasn’t looking, found the cell phone holder, in the box, sitting on my desk, not two feet from where I sit all day long.  I had forgotten what the box looked like thinking it was twice the size it actually is, so when I looked for it, I literally could not see it even though it was right in front of my eyes.  This morning, as I was getting ready to go for my walk, there were my sunglasses, on my dresser. They were sitting right next to the place I grab the remote to turn off the alarm system every single morning, but because they were out of place and I was not looking for them when I was there in the morning, I had looked right over them for three days. Today, for some reason, I finally “saw” them.  As my grandmother would say “If they had been a snake, they would have bitten you.”

I think maybe this has been a lesson for me to reinforce what I have come to believe.  At a meeting a few weeks ago, a woman who sees spirits approached me and said: “Your daughter goes with you everywhere. She said to tell you she still greets you the way she always has.”  I totally believe that our loved ones are still right here with us.  I imagine Shayna still playing with my ear lobes and squishing the veins on the back of my hands.  I say “‘Good morning’to her every morning and ‘Good night’ to her every night.”  I tell her I love her all the time.  And, I believe that she’s right here listening to me and watching me. She’s hiding right here in plain sight, I just don’t have the eyes to see her.

Madonna said “I am a material girl and we are living in a material world.”  Madonna was wrong.  

Max Planck said: “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Max Planck was right. As I was listening to my good friend Roberta Grimes’ latest Podcast this morning, something that has been dancing around the back of my mind for a while finally coalesced into a coherent thought.  It’s this notion that we think what we call reality, our “material” world is the ultimate reality. This relegates the “non-material” world, the afterlife realm(s), the astral planes, to something that is less than reality.  When we call them the mental planes or the non-material, to me that connotes a dream-like ethereal place that is less real than our world. I think it’s a mistake to call this the material world and the other the non-material world. 

The reality is there is no material world. It’s all consciousness.  It’s all energy. The universe we happen to inhabit at this time is energy just slowed way, way down until it appears to be “solid”.  An atom, which we who are of a certain age, picture as a solid mass in the center, with some smaller “particles” zipping around in orbit just outside of the nucleus is mostly space. And when I say mostly space, picture this.  If the nucleus were the size of a basketball, the closest electron would be 20 miles away.  If the nucleus were the size of the White House, the closest electron would be somewhere around Denver, CO.  Our universe is mostly “dark matter” and “dark energy”. The reason they’re called “dark matter” and “dark energy” is they cannot be detected. Scientists have determined they must be there to balance their equations, but they cannot detect them with their instruments. What do I mean by “mostly” here? Well, somewhere around 90-95% of our universe is undetectable to us.  Could this be where those who have transitioned reside?

I have a really difficult time grasping the reality of the afterlife. Some say we become “light beings” having no bodies and just being pure consciousness.  We become perfected at death and merge with the “One”, but most reports are exactly the opposite. We still have bodies, which are very analogous to these bodies. They are solid. They are real.  It’s called the etheric body. We are in physical environments, with flowers and trees and streams and mountains. We can work.  We can garden. We can learn to play an instrument.  We can explore.  And, they say when we get there, we will realize it’s not there that is the shadow, the dream-like state, it’s here that is the shadow.  This is a shadow of our real Home.

For a deeper look at this, from a purely scientific perspective, check out this film The Simulation Hypothesis   I don’t think we are Sims residing on some giant teenager’s hard drive, but this look at the nature of our universe I think does point us in the right direction when it comes to finding out what our Source and the natures of the one great reality, of which our material universe is only a tiny fraction.

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.

Max Planck

Last night in my dream, I found myself sitting in a classroom.  I was there with several other people who were taking a course in grief.  This was no ordinary class on the theory of grief. We had each volunteered to experience the passing of a loved one so that we could learn what grief was like.  We were coming back to report on our experience so far. The instructor sitting up front looked at us and said: “It looks like many of you have chosen to lose weight.” That’s good.  People had decided to get healthier and were eating better and exercising. Then he looked at me and said: “What have you lost and what have you gained?”  I said:  "Well, I haven’t lost weight and I really don’t want to lose weight.  I have gained compassion.  I have a better understanding of what other people are going through. And I have gained a belief in the idea that we are eternal spirits and that we go on after “death”. I know that in my very being now.  But, I have also gained deep, sustained unbearable sadness.“  Then I wept.  People came up to comfort me.

Then I woke up.