The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band

Today is the day of Uncle Jack’s memorial service.  It’s being held in Columbus, OH, at Brentnell as our family calls it.   The rest of the world knows it, Church of Christ of Apostolic Faith.  To me, it’the church that Pop built.

As we get closer to the church I get that feeling that you only get when you visit a place from your childhood that you haven’t seen in decades. It’s approximately 40 years since I’ve been back to this place.  Pop (my father’s father) built this place. It’s a large church, but even more than that, all these decades later, Pop’s legacy continues.  My parents attend a church pastored by a man who never met Pop, but who knows his legend. My father’s twin attends another church- same story.  Uncle Jack has lived in Atlanta for over 20 years and his pastor also knows of Pop’s legacy.  The story of Pop has spread across the country in Pentecostal circles.

As we come into the church, I look all the way across the sanctuary and I spot someone who looks a lot like my Uncle Ronnie. It’s a family funeral, so there are relatives here.  But, Uncle Ronnie isn’t related to my Uncle Jack.  Uncle Jack is my father’s brother.  Uncle Ronnie is my mother’s brother.  And, he lives two hours away.  Next to Uncle Ronnie, I see what looks like Uncle June, my mother’s other surviving brother.  And, my Aunt Lil, my mother’s sister, is also here.  My parents’ families over the years have grown very close to each other, becoming almost like one family.  During the service, I sit next to Uncle Ronnie.  There was a service for Uncle Jack in Atlanta.  Uncle Ronnie is 73 years old. He drives everywhere he goes.  Cleveland to Atlanta is about an 11-hour drive, but Uncle Ronnie was going to go if my parents were going.  That’s how committed to family Uncle Ronnie is. As I sit next to him, I’m reminded again of how special this man is.

The service is to be “short and simple”. This is according to the typewritten detailed instructions left by Uncle Jack.  If you consider short and simple and hour and a half, it is.  How do you do proper honor to a man who lived 95 years and touched so many including more than half a dozen children and three wives over the course of his life?  His pastor from Atlanta came to Columbus to preach his memorial service.  Gotta make it worth the trip.

Uncle Jack was a prolific and gifted writer, just like his father, Pop.  He was an educator.  Uncle Jack loved language. He was a quiet man in person, but his writing and his life example spoke quite loudly.   My cousin Steve tells a story of how much Uncle Walter (Uncle Jack’s brother) and Uncle Jack impacted his life and how that impact has impacted Steve’s life.  As I sit and listen to the stories of my family, knowing the people Pop touched, Uncle Jack touched, my father, my mother, my Uncle Ronnie, my heart is bursting with pride.  Along with that pride comes the responsibility to try to live up to the standard that they have set before me.

As the service nears the end, I’ve made it through without bursting into tears.  I’ve tried to remain focused on this being about Uncle Jack and not thinking about Shayna as I’m prone to do during funerals now crying tears for my loss of her rather than the person we are there to honor. The service closes with a slideshow of Uncle Jack through the years.  I watch as the pictures recount 90+ years in a matter of a couple of minutes, watching Uncle Jack blossom from a toddler into a handsome teenager, into a dashing young man, then watching as Time takes away all of that vigor until he finally got to the point where his body was ready to be done and his soul was ready to go home. Uncle Jack was fortunate enough to transition exactly the way he wanted, on his terms, surrounded by his loving family.  We should all be so fortunate.

I manage to hold it together right up until the end. The slideshow ends with a video of Uncle Jack, at the age of 89, talking directly to the camera, dispersing wisdom and giving encouragement- vintage Uncle Jack.  One wild thing about this video is I dreamt this morning that I received an email from Uncle Jack, posthumously, with a video attachment telling me that he was ready to go, had gone on his own terms and had arrived safely at his destination.  I had no idea there would be a video of him at the service. I haven’t laid eyes on Uncle Jack in years as he stopped traveling from Atlanta. But, Uncle Jack was on the internet- learning how to use the technology in his 80s and getting onto Facebook in his 90s. If there was a way to communicate, Uncle Jack was going to learn how to use it.  I tear up at the end of the video.

After the service, there is a meal in the dining hall of the church.  My cousin approaches me and we talk about business. He’s a mile-a-minute guy full of ideas. He’s giving me advice and encouragement on the business, which I greatly, greatly appreciate and could use. We are struggling right now, going through a transition that has me overwhelmed. Between that and dealing with Shayna’s transition, my heart is heavy and it’s hard to not show it, especially at family gatherings where I am reminded of who is missing from my family.  My cousin looks at me and observes that my heart seems heavy.  I tell him “Yes, my heart is heavy.”  I’m not about bringing it up, but if someone asks I have to be honest.  He encourages me to keep my eye on where I am going, not where I am. Great advice.  He’s going to help me with marketing the business.  And we are going to try to get the family to start cooperating with our considerable talents, helping each other out. This is a fantastic idea.  I’m looking forward to it.

This is the thing though, where I am going is great. But, when I get where I’m going where my problem with losing Shayna is solved, you guys won’t be there.  LOL The business might turn around.  But, I won’t be 100% ever in this life again.

I guess that since we are talking about business he thinks my countenance is due to the stresses of the business.  I inform him that my heart is heavy because I’m missing Shayna. These family gatherings were tough for me before.  Funerals would give me panic attacks because, unlike most people, I’ve always been keenly aware of my mortality.  I’ve never been one to whistle past a graveyard without thinking that one day I will be there.  At funerals, I always think that one day that will be me in the box or my parents or a sibling.  I’m grateful I haven’t had to deal with the loss of one of them yet. But these thoughts would give me panic attacks in the past.  Now, they do not.  During the service, one of the speakers talks about Pop making the comment about having one foot in heaven and one foot here, later in life.  Uncle Jack got to that point later in his life.  I guess I’m ahead of the curve. I’m there at 55.

Uncle Jack endured to 95.  I hope to God, I don’t have to go that long. But, I know Uncle Jack and Mom & Pop and Granddaddy and Grandbaby and a whole host of other uncles and aunts are there waiting for me, but encouraging me to do what I need to do while I am still here.  Keep on running that race and pass the torch only when it’s time.

Damn.  I guess that’s what I gotta do.

There was an event this evening. A group of local mediums had a gathering where they were demonstrating five different modalities of doing mediumship messages.  I guess 40-50 people were in attendance and it was a two hour event, so there was a good chance of everyone or nearly everyone getting a message.

The messages, quite frankly, were so generic as to be not impressive at all. Again, always an older person in spirit.  The names were always common names like “Rob or Bob or Robert” or even “A J name”.  They’d say things like “I sense some changes coming in your life.”  And they’d always end with “Your loved one in spirit wants to tell you she is very proud of you and loves you very much.”  In fact, one of the mediums, during her turn was just throwing out generic stuff  and not even asking for confirmation so much that she joked “The fun part of being up here is I just have to give the message, you have to figure it out.”

They did get around to calling on me. The person doing the reading was wafting postcards over a flame producing smudges and interpreting them.  She said that she sensed I had some transitions I was going through in my life, one of my choosing and one that I had not chosen. That could be the business changes we are making and, of course, Shaya’s passing. She said she had a grandmother energy, someone who had had a stroke that affected her left side. That could be Mom (I call my grandmother Mom- everyone did).  She said that I was in a place in life that no one could have predicted from where I started. She said that this woman sensed that I had put out to the universe that I needed money and that she was doing everything she could do to help and that I would be successful.  This part I’m hoping was true because I have put that out to the universe.  But, who hasn’t?  She said this grandmother used to bake a lot for me.  Well, many grandmothers have, but Mom didn’t cook so much for me.  My other grandmother did since she lived with us from the time I was 7 or 8 years old.  She said she had an “M name” something like Mary. Well, my grandmother, the one who lived with me, is Mary Effie, but everyone called her Effie.

I can’t recall what she said she saw on the card exactly, but it was a green postcard. When she was done, she handed it to me.  The card was lightly covered with varying shades of soot, almost like a Rorschach test.  But, in the middle of the black soot, some color had developed.  The color was purple and it was in the shape of a heart.  Maybe Shayna showed up after all, but the medium didn’t see it.

Today we are going to Columbus for the memorial service for my Uncle Jack who passed a couple of weeks ago at the age of 95.  Last night I dreamt I was out for my walk and spotted an unattended FedEx delivery truck (the 18 wheeler variety).  I decided instead of walking I would take a joy ride in the truck. I finished up my joy ride and left the truck for the authorities to find later. As I was walking back into the neighborhood, the school bus driver I see every morning pulled in behind me driving the FedEx truck.  Problem solved. They’d never know I had taken it.

I walked back up the street and up the hill to my house and went in.  Tywana was in the bathroom getting dressed.  She hadn’t noticed I was gone longer than usual. Good.  All clear on my little caper.  As I was leaving the bathroom, I got a notification on my phone of an incoming email. It was from Uncle Jack. “Strange” I thought.  “Uncle Jack is dead.  How could he be sending an email to me?”  Uncle Jack was technically savvy for a 95 year old guy.  He was on Facebook up until a couple of years ago. So, I thought, he must have figured out a way to schedule an email.  The email had a video attached to it. Uncle Jack was narrating as the video showed him getting into a bathtub.  He said that he was fine right up until the end.  He had not suffered. He said that he even drew a bath and gave himself a bath the day he had “made the trip.”  He knew the memorial service was this evening.  His message was that he had arrived where he was going, that all was well, and that he wanted everyone to have a good time at the memorial because he was having a good time and would see us all soon enough.

A couple of nights ago we went to The Funny Bone to see a demonstration with two mediums. We sat at the table with a couple and when we were asked who were hoping to hear from, Tywana said, of course, Shayna, our 15 year old who passed 16 months ago.

16 months. Really? The first thought in my head was “That’s not right. I don’t remember 16 months.” Then, it dawned on my October 24th had come and gone. Yes, now it’s been 16 months. I hadn’t marked the change from 15 to 16.

When your child passes, it’s a little like when they’re born in terms of how you measure the time. Remember the annoying days of asking someone how old their baby is and they answer “16 weeks”. No, the kid is four months old. When do you stop saying “weeks”. For Shayna it’s 16 months. I suppose at the two year anniversary we’ll measure in years.

Last night, Tywana found Shayna’ Instagram account. I don’t think Shayna had been on Instagram all that long. She has about 550 followers on Instagram. Tywana spent some time reading the posts from Shayna and her followers. Shayna, as we knew, was wise way beyond her years always writing profound observations about life and always encouraging others. Kids are still coming to her page today commenting on how much they miss her and how they are using her inspiration to get through tough times they are facing. I couldn’t be more proud of her. God only knows how many followers she would have today. She was a beauty to behold, amazing photogenic. And she still shines today, just not in physical form. I went to bed last night missing her as much as ever.

16 months ago, my life changed in a way I could not even have fathomed. 16 months later I’m still alive, still struggling, still clawing my way forward. Before departing on this journey, I would look at parents of special needs children or parents whose children had moved to heaven and I’d wonder “How do they do it? I could never handle that. I couldn’t go on. I wouldn’t go on.” I would wonder how they look so normal, how they could laugh or forget for even a moment missing their child or dealing with the fact they were terminally ill.

I still don’t have the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know how I’m still here. I don’t know how I carry on. I know that I have to for the sake of those who love me. I know that I would do anything for Shayna or for Kayla or for Tywana. I ’d lay down my life for any of them, no hesitation. But, that’s not what I’ve been asked to do. I’ve been asked to live my life in honor of Shayna and to keep on fighting for Tywana and for Kayla. So, yeah, I guess that’s how I do it.

According to Swedenborg, God is Truth/Wisdom AND Love.  If we are to be like Him, we must have both, in balance.

Love without Wisdom/Truth leads to error and being easily led astray.  Truth without love leads to intolerance and tyranny.  We can know the highest Truth, but if we apply it without regard to Love, it’s worthless.

Too many people are choosing “truth” over Love. When your gay child comes to you and you reject him because of what the Bible says, you are choosing “truth” over Love. When you would rather be right than maintain a relationship, you are choosing “truth” over Love.  When you decide that a person voting for a particular candidate is not only not worthy of your respect, they’re not worthy of your time, you are choosing “truth” over Love.  Churches break up over this choice. It’s why we have 30,000-40,000 Christian denominations.  Jesus said they would know us by our Love, not by our “truth”.

This election season is the most divided I can recall in my lifetime. I know families where siblings are not speaking to each other.  Life long friendships are dissolving, all because one person chose one candidate and the other person chose another.

Is your “truth” worth sacrificing the Love that binds you? I think right now, many of us need to seriously meditate on this question.

Six months ago, Tywana and I saw a psychic medium at the local comedy club. The show was amazing. When we found out she would be here again, we committed to coming back a second time. We did not hear from Shayna that first night, but we were convinced the medium is the real deal. Messages came through for probably around a dozen other people.

Last week out of the blue, it hits me that I should check to see when she is coming back. We were talking with some friends and the subject came up. It seemed to me the show is coming up in November, but I got this nudge to check right then. Sure enough, the show is October 28th, not November. Good thing I checked. We have a friend who said she wanted to go with us next time. Tywana contacts her. We’ll wait to hear back from her and all get our tickets at the same time. Then, Saturday, I got the nudge to go ahead and buy the tickets now. Maybe the show will sell out. I don’t want to miss the opportunity. So, I go on-line and I buy two tickets. The seats are not reserved. If our friend wants to go, we can still sit together. I’m feeling like I’ve been led to get these tickets. Maybe it means we will get a reading this time.

The day of the show rolls around. During my meditation, I set the intention for Shayna to show up tonight. The thing about these shows is you have a couple of hundred people in the room and probably a dozen or so get a reading. Practically everyone there has someone they want to hear from whether it’s someone very close or a grandparent. Of course, not everyone has a child they want to hear from. That should take priority, but who am I to say?

We arrrive an hour before show time. We are seated with a couple and it’s clear we’re going to have to make small talk to kill some time. I’m not really interested in sharing Shayna’s passing with them. So, we talk around the specific reasons we are here. They haven’t seen Cindy Kaza before. We, of course, have. We tell them what to expect. On the way in, I find out that Lisa Williams, a psychic medium who has had two television shows, will also be demonstrating tonight. Wow. This is great. She’s supposed to be really good from what the internet has to say. Maybe we’ll hear from Shayna through her.

The guy we’re sitting with reveals that his father has passed within the last year and he’d really like to hear from him. He’s wearing one of his father’s shirts for luck. His wife has a particularly close relationship with her grandfather who has been hanging around the house since his passing making his presence known in various signs. She, of course, wants to hear from him. Tywana shares our story of Shayna’s passing. Then, Tywana spots a woman she knows from Companions on a Journey. She’s one of the group leaders. She has had a daughter pass and she is sitting with a table of women. Presumably, at least some of them have had children transition. So, we know we’re not the only bereaved parents in the room.

7:30 finally comes and the mediums take the stage. They explain the rules. Number 1 rule- CLAIM YOUR PEOPLE. When mediums operate like this they don’t walk up to an audience member and say “Your name is Sally and I have your father Frank here who died on March 31 of lung cancer.”. The messages coming through are usually very general at first and the medium will get a sense of the area of the room the target is sitting in. It’ll be something like “I have an older gentleman here. He is very large. He worked in construction. He poured concrete. It’s someone’s father. He wanted to leave the business to his son. I’m getting the name Dan or Danny or Daniel. Is this for anyone here? No? OK. This table over here. Does this mean anything to you? OK, how about the name Donald?” This is pretty much exacty what Cindy Kaza said last night. This goes on for about five minutes. No one is claiming the person. What’s interesting about Cindy and Lisa is on certain things they are more sure and others they are not as sure. If they’re sure, they won’t let go. I”m thinking “Sorry. It’s a swing and a miss. Move on.” Cindy won’t do it. She keeps circling back around to this. People say “Well, I know someone named Donald.” She asks: ‘What about the rest?“ “No.” “Well, then it’s not for you.” Finally, a woman at the table Cindy originally went to sheepishly raises her hand. “I guess it could be for me.” “OK. What matches?” “Well, my grandfather had a business. He wanted to leave it to my father. He was a large man. But, he didn’t pour concrete. He poured asphalt. My father is a car mechanic. I don’t know anyone named Donald though. The only Donald I can think of is my father’s business is on Donald Drive.”

I’m furious. And this is not atypical. The mediums spent time telling us they wouldn’t be 100% precise on relationships and names could be of the living or the dead, but lots of time is wasted trying to hunt down the people the messages are for. Cindy works the room for I guess around 45 minutes. Then, Lisa comes up and does the same. Everyone is probably doing what I’m doing alternatively asking our loved ones to push to the front of the line and trying to will the mediums to make a connection.

At the first reading, I tear up because from the message it’s obvious that not only is the Risen one still alive and well, he is still very much connected to the family and involved in their lives. One reading is for someone who lost a sister at a very young age. The girl was only five when she died, but it’s been many years. The message is she has grown up in heaven. This is disappointing to me because I’m missing Shayna’s teenage years. When I see her, will she be grown up? Meh, I guess I’ll have to live with that.

As you would expect based on when people die, most of the messages are for fathers, mothers and grandparents who have passed. In a room of 200 people you can always through out “I have a grandfather here who died of heart attack.” and hit a couple of people. Finally, a message comes through for someone at Tywana’s friends table. It’s a little girl named Sarah who died of cancer at age five. The details build from there.

Before the show started I tried to set expectations for the couple we’re sitting with. “You don’t come to one of these shows to get a reading yourself. The chances are you are not since only about dozen people actually do. You come to see the evidence. You know if their loved ones are all right and still involved in their lives, ours are too.” I say this as much for myself as I do for them. And I know Shayna is no the pushy type. I’ve heard it described, when mediums are doing shows like this, that those on the other side line up to try to get through. It would make sense that the more aggressive ones are the ones who get to the front. Shayna wouldn’t push anyone out of the way. As it’s clear the night is coming to an end, I accept that we won’t hear from her again.

The guy we are sitting with gets up to leave. I don’t look at his face. The show is still going on. Tywana said he looked disappointed. We had talked to them a litle during the show and they were amazed by the accuracy of the readings and the level of detail. But, we all want our own. By the end of the show, two hours after it had started, I’m thinking of checking the baseball score and I’m ready to leave. I’m happy for the people who have gotten their readings and the evidence is still coming, but I’ve had enough.

The show ends and we walk to the car together. It’s clear to us, again, that this stuff is real. We are still confident that Shayna is with us and we will see her again. It would have been nice to hear from her tonight. But, in spite of my nudges to get us to the show, that was not to be. We probably won’t go again. If we really want a medium reading, we’ll seek out a medium for a one-on-one. A good medium can cost a couple of hundred dollars for a reading and the waiting list can be over a year. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two readings with mediums like this. A reading tonight wasn’t necessary, but would have been really nice. I know Shayna was right there with us, is right here with us, and every day I am one day closer to seeing her again.

The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere was this Sunday.  At the end of last season, we saw a scene where all of our heroes were on their knees in a semi-circle around a madman with a baseball bat wrapped with barbed wire.  Everyone who is a fan of the show knew that one of our beloved characters was about to meet their end.  Anticipation/dread has been building over the summer.  Facebook feeds last week were filled with posts expressing alternating fear and anticipation for what was to come. Some people had watch parties. Others wanted to be alone not being able to predict their emotional state.

If you haven’t watched the premiere by now (two days later), I’m sure it’s already been spoiled for you.  If you’re not even a TWD fan, you’ve probably heard way more than you wanted to hear.  Two of our heroes were bludgeoned to death by this madman.  Their heads were bashed until there was nothing left but a bloody mash.  And we all watched.

The show is so brutal, there is a group therapy session that airs after the show.  The show is an hour, the after show was 90 minutes.  The cast members sometimes appear on the show, but it’s basically for fans to decompress after the horrors of the night. It’s a tradition that the cast members who have been killed in that episode show up so the fans can be reminded it was only the character that was killed.  The person who played the character is still with us and doing fine.

There is a meme that caught my eye yesterday:

“I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but it sounds like some of you need some days off, a sedative, a shot or a hug.”

As I was watching Negan bash someone’s head in several things went through my mind.  I rarely get so caught up in a television show or a movie that I forget the character is just a character.  When things get particularly brutal is when I’ll remind myself and maybe even go to a place where I think of how they shot the scene.  Other people turn their eyes and/or cover their ears. Some people will leave the room.  Then, the question of “Why?” comes to me.  Why do we put ourselves through this?There was genuine dread on Saturday and Sunday as people prepared themselves for the upcoming inevitable brutality.  Why do people watch a show that they have to turn away from?  No one makes anyone watch TWD.

I’ve seen one person on Facebook report enough is enough.  But, most people are hanging in with the show. They mourn for the characters who are lost and they are plotting revenge on their murderer. They’ll stay tuned hoping the writers eventually make things right. The thing is people, it’s a show about the zombie apocalypse.  Deep down, we all know things will never be right. It would be the end of the show.

People push back against the idea that we, as humans, would volunteer to come to this screwed up world full of pain and misery- virtually guaranteed for all of us at some point. Even crazier, they say, is the fact, we would plan anything like the misery some of us go through. “Why would we do that to ourselves?”  I think there are good reasons why we would do that and I’ve addressed them before. As I watch people torturing themselves for “entertainment” watching a television show that routinely rips their hearts our week after week, I’m more confident in the fact that we have something in us that craves adventure, a little bit of fear, excitement, challenge. TWD walks that line exploring how much is too much.  For a few people, they crossed the line in this past episode, but for most of their fan base, they’ll be back next week for more.  In fact, they can’t wait.

Life is hard. As much as we might think we are islands, we are not. We are not meant to get through this life alone. Fortunately, we are never truly alone. We have angels and guides who are always with us. Flesh and blood people beside us is a luxury many of us don’t have. I’m very fortunate to have Tywana. She has been there for me through thick and thin for closer to 30 years than to 25. I can’t put everything on her though. Usually, when one of us feeling low, we can count on the other, but what are we to do when we’re both just getting by? I can’t be solely reliant on her.

Tywana has a large group of friends. Between book club, her “Bible study” group, friends she walks with, golfing buddies, etc. etc. (not an exaggeration, there is more than one etcetera), she’s got an active social schedule and lots of people to spread the burden around with. I am grateful for that. What I’ve found is with guys, at least with my friends, it’s not the same. First of all, we don’t really get together all that often. I had a group of guys I used to go out and watch football with. That dwindled over the years down to just two or three “regulars”. The Bengals are playing their eighth game of the season this weekend, the halfway mark, and we haven’t gotten together once. I had a friend I would golf with once a week. He’s actually divorced now and lives 10 minutes from me. I haven’t golfed with him in two or three years. I have three friends who have recently divorced. One used to be my best friend. I found out that he and his wife had been having marital issues for over a year and were getting a divorce, the day they were meeting with an attorney. We used to use our kids as excuses for not getting together. Now, we know better. I don’t see any of these guys on a regular basis- only when the wives arrange something.

I have two brothers and a sister. When Shayna passed, they were all here for me. Bit time. They really stepped up. But, we don’t talk about anything substantive most of the time. We’re all friends on Facebook. I sometimes wonder if they read any of the massive amounts of crap I post every day. Just when I think they probably don’t, one of them will comment on a television show I remarked about or a picture of what I made for dinner. When it comes to my blog or the spiritual stuff I post, there’s nothing.

When I do get together with my guy friends, it’s mostly talking about sports. “How’s it going?” is always met with “Great.” Maybe “Oh, really busy.”. Then I find out the truth through the wives. I’ll hear about the upcoming divorce because the women shared it. I’ll hear one of their kids is struggling with serious emotional issues because the wife shared it. The husband didn’t want her to tell anyone. And just in case one of you is reading this and thinks I shared something confidential or your wife shared something you told her not to (fat chance). This has happened more than twice, so I’m not singling anyone out. I have a friend with a fairly serious health issue that he never discusses with me. I get updates from his wife, through Tywana.

A couple of buddies a few weeks ago mentioned starting a book club, like our wives have. My fault. I haven’t made an effort to set it up. I’ll give it a go. I’m not optimistic based on past history. The grief groups I’ve attended have been 90% women. When we’re together and have had a few beers, we always talk about getting together more, but we don’t make it happen.

I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or a societal thing, but it’s a thing. Even on Facebook, I have women reaching out to me all the time. There are several I message with on a regular basis. There is one guy. One. He’s a buddy from about 20 years back.

Men die earlier than women. I’m convinced one of the reasons is all of the stress we try to carry alone. It’s not the way we were designed to be. Many years ago, back when I was still reading Christian self-help books, I read a book called “How People Grow”. I don’t recall much from the book, but one thing I do recall was learning about the concept of interdependence, even before I heard the term in my Buddhist studies. Independence isn’t healthy. We can’t get through life alone. Dependence isn’t healthy. We need to have boundaries and to not be burdens to other people. Interdependence is what is healthy. Mutually relying on each other is the way to get through the storms of life.

So, what am I saying? What’s the bottom line? What am I trying to accomplish with this? I don’t know. Nothing really. It’s just an observation. Nothing will change. Boys will be boys and men will be men.

When the lights go down in the City
And the sun shines on the bay
I want to be there in my City

So you think you’re lonely
Well my friend I’m lonely too
I want to get back to my City by the bay

It’s sad, oh there’s been mornings out on the road without you,
Without your charms,

Tywana’s in Kentucky again this weekend.  So, I have a day or so on my own. The Buckeyes manage to lose in primetime to Penn State.  But, I was prepared for a stumble from this young team with all of these primetime road games. I’m not too upset. I stay up to watch the SNL cold opening.  I can’t miss Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump after the third debate.  Then, I head upstairs to bed.  As I turn to climb the stairs I notice the light on the ceiling fan is already on. This has been a common occurrence lately.  I don’t know what time it comes on.  But, many nights when we head up the stairs, we find it’s already on. I climb into bed and quickly fall asleep.

I wake up around 6 o’clock, my usual time.  I’m tired, though. I think I’m going to sleep in today. I roll over and fall back to sleep.  Around 8 o’clock, the light on the ceiling fan comes on again. I open my eyes and look at it. “Where is that remote?”  Before I can even reach for it, the light goes off.   Then, it comes on again.  Then, the lights do this little dance, flickering off and on, dimming and getting brighter.  I say “Good morning, Shayna.”   It goes off and on once or twice more. Then it just stops. The whole thing takes a minute, maybe two.

As I lie there trying to decide on what I’m going to do today, my dreams come back to me and I recall I had a dream about Shayna.  She was little about 4 or 5 years old I guess. I spotted her from across the room. She was so beautiful, just like she was when she was in the body. It was a very large room. She was playing with other kids.  I knew she wasn’t supposed to be here and that if I pushed too hard, the connection would break and she’d be gone. I went up to her and said hi to her. I asked her for a hug and wanted her to sit on my lap, just for a moment. She was so busy playing she didn’t want to do it. I knew I couldn’t try too hard to persuade her because the connection was tenuous. She agreed to sit in my lap.   It was so nice. Then, the scene shifted. We were in a room that had a ceiling that had to be 15 feet high. There was a shelf at about 10 feet with a bunch of candy bars on it of different types. Shayna was asking me to reach them for her and show them to her so she could pick some. My arms magically extended high enough to pick them up and show them to her so that she could choose them.  That’s it. Then, the dream was over.  As I recall, the dream, I recall the feeling of seeing her face, talking to her and holding her and what joy and peace I had in that dream state.

It’s a brisk, sunny morning. I take my walk at a leisurely pace listening to some NPR this morning rather than my usual spiritual stuff. Just as I’m finishing up my walk, I look down at the sidewalk in front of me and a monarch butterfly is sitting right in the middle of the sidewalk.  We rarely see monarchs where I live in Ohio. I don’t know their migration cycle and whether this is normal for it to be here in late October or not.  It’s only about 38º this morning, too. I wonder if maybe it’s dead, but as I get close to it, it takes off and flies out of sight.

I decide to cut the grass.  There will probably only be one or two more cuttings this season and I will have another milestone behind me.  I decide to listen to some Journey.  One of the interesting things about the phase I’m in now is I can see a deeper meaning in things I once took only literally. Lyrics that I might not have paid much attention to before take on more symbolic and larger meaning.  Lights- a song about the band missing San Francisco when they were on the road, becomes a song about homesickness in general and I’m feeling really homesick. I’m reading a book that describes what Home is like.  We communicate without using words.  There’s no longing to be with someone.  You think of them and you’re there.  There’s no time, no distance, no space to separate us.  This place is the the road. Home is where Shayna is where the Lights are shining. The signs are nice.  The trick with the ceiling fan lights is much appreciated.  But, I want to see the City Lights again.

Today, my buddy and I are having a discussion about the nature of reality. It’s been an on-going conversation for, wow I just realized, almost 20 years now. We’ve spent many late nights/early mornings pondering the meaning of it all.

When we met I was just starting to come out of a fundamentalist mindset. Kevin was leaning atheist. All these years later we seem to be merging toward some middle ground. We still have our differences. I would say I am still much more of a “believer” than he is, but we seem to be agreeing on more and more.

Today, we’re talking about the notion that Swedenborg calls “divine providence”. According to Swedenborg, everything that happens to us, down to the roll of a die, is slanted in our favor. God isn’t the author of evil, but God somehow only allows the agents of evil to do what is ultimately good for us. We have all heard the term used for the belief that people and/or circumstances are conspiring against us- paranoia. But, how many of us know the term that means the belief that there is a conspiracy in our favor- pronoia? Pronoia is a term that until a week ago I had never heard. I tell my buddy that this belief, coupled with the notion that we choose our own circumstances for the greatest good for our souls and for the growth of others, is what keeps me sane. It’s what keeps me grounded.

Kevin is a realist though. He’s not going to accept that what seems to be bad is really good just because we wish it to be. He posits “Maybe the universe really is cruel. Or maybe it’s just uncaring.” Well, it sure seems to be at times. The law of entropy sure seems to apply to my life. Everything is constantly falling apart or at least trying to fall apart. Life seems to be a constant struggle against disorder as I work hard to arrange things the way I think they need to be for my happiness and they always seem to be trying to work counter to my plans. This, I think, gives most of us an underlying sense of paranoia. Life is hard, and if you don’t watch out, it’ll jump up and bite you. We notice when things are going “bad”. But, do we pay as much attention when things go well? Do we notice the synchronicities that happen that put us in the right place at the right time to meet the love of our life? Do we notice the distraction that kept us off of the highway at the time a fatal accident occured? Do we think about all of the healthy days we have, all of the doctors’ visits when we don’t get the diagnosis of cancer or a heart condition? No. Those go largely unnoticed. That’s why we don’t generally have pronoia.

And, do we really know what is bad? Kevin asks: “If the universe allows bad things to happen to us, even for our greater good, if the universe has a choice in the matter, then is the universe cruel? ”. I fall back to an analogy that works for me. When we take our children in to get a vaccination from their perspective, we are taking them to a place where a stranger sticks them in the arm with a needle. “What is this, Mommy? You brought me to this place and put me in this room and let this person stab me in the arm?” As a parent, we know the vaccination is good for them. So, we not only allow it to happen, we take them. We feel their pain. We even wish we could take the shot for them, but we know it’s necessary.

As we go back and forth on this, I bottom line it. “We can never know which is true. The universe could be a cold uncaring place. Or, the universe could be a very safe place conspiring for our every good. Since we do not and cannot know- at least from observing from within, with our limited perspectives and seeing an on-going stream of what appears to be mostly random “good” and “bad” events, we have a choice to make. I play out the implications of both choices. Choice A- the universe is random, possibly cruel. This makes me a victim. I am powerless. It’s me against the world- actually the universe. Choice B- the universe is working to bring about the greatest good and happiness for everyone in it, but it’s playing a long game. This allows me to look at even the most dire circumstance and have some hope in it. Now, this works out OK for little things. Losing a job- maybe I’ll get a better one. Financial difficulties- maybe a better opportunity will come along or maybe I was too attached to material things. Where this breaks down is in death. The death of a child- what can be the possible good in that? I concede that, if there is no After, there is no redeeming value in the death of Shayna. Nope. None. Yes, Shayna touched many people’s lives and her passing has caused people to hug their own kids tighter and to realize they shouldn’t take anything for granted, but that does not outweigh what our family is going through. Some things cannot be fixed in time. My pronoia is dependent on the fact there is more.

So, Kevin brings up this choice is like Pascal’s Wager. This is the notion that we can live our lives as if God exists or as if God doesnt’ exist. The idea, as I understand it, is based on the assumption that we need to live a certain way to be “saved”. If we live a life based on God not existing and we die and God does exist. Uh-oh. If we live a life based on God existing and God does not exist, well maybe we sacrificed some things in this life, but we are blisssfully unaware of our non-existence, so we haven’t lost much. Might as well live as if God exists. This is hedging our bet.

I have to disagree with that. This isn’t so much like Pascal’s Wager. It doesn’t change the circumstance of my life to believe the universe is conspiring for me. It doesn’t really change my actions all that much, if at all. It changes my reaction to what has happened to me. It doesn’t even change my expectation of future events. It doesn’t mean I won’t get cancer or have an accident- the universe is not attempting to protect me from individual events I would deem bad. Choosing to believe or not believe this isn’t a matter of changing my behavior. Choosing to believe this is a matter of remaining sane in insane circumstances. Does that mean it’s just wishful thinking? Could be. I have no way of proving it and couldn’t think of an experiment we could design to prove it. We have testimony from those who have had NDEs and many of them tell us this is true.

So, given the choice, I choose to be pronoid. It’s not easy, especially right now. I meditate on it every day. I face the challenges looking at them like Navy Seal training. Navy Seals sign up to be Navy Seals. No one forces them to go. Yet, they go to training that pushes them to the limits. I’m sure there are times during the training when they just know they are going to die. There are times when they think they can’t take another step, swim another stroke, yet they push through. And they do it because they know that training is necessary to become the skilled warrior they wish to be.